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Primer | Who are the Naxals and how they function?

The Naxals bloodlust is the major threat to the internal security of India

Shantanu Bhattacharji  |  New Delhi 

Their enemy No.1 is the Indian state. On 25 May, Naxalites gave a body blow to the Congress leadership in Chhattisgarh. The ghastly strike must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. At least 27 people were brutally killed, including 10 policemen and former state home minister Mahendra Karma, the founder of anti-Maoist militia Salwa Judum that the Supreme Court in July 2011 had declared illegal and unconstitutional.
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Last week's Naxal attack came barely three days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced what he called a significant decline in killings by left-wing ultras, whom the Union government describes as the nation's biggest internal security threat.

"The quantum of violence as well as the resultant killings perpetrated by the left-wing extremist groups in 2012 declined significantly for the second successive year," said a report Singh released on Wednesday to mark the fourth anniversary of his second term in office.
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The rebels have always believed that revolution is the only means to liberate people from economic penury. The post-Independence political history of India has many examples of armed uprising ending through talks. Putting an end to the Maoist violence is critical to both India’s economic progress and internal security.

The only possible real long-term solution is to increase access of those in deprived areas to the benefits of inclusive growth. That will require, however, a greater effort to restore the rule of law than has been seen hitherto.
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The ultra-Left wing guerrillas are known as Naxals or Naxalites, after Naxalbari, the village in West Bengal where their movement was born in 1967. Mao Zedong’s red book is the sacred text for them. Their arms training is fashioned after modules of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

What is the Salwa Judum?

In 2005, Salwa Judum began as a government-backed "people's resistance movement" against the Naxalites. In the Gondi language of the tribals of Dantewada and Bastar, Salwa Judum means peace march.

But in effect, it involved authorities arming tribal villagers to fight the Naxals.

Who do they represent?

The Naxals claim to represent the most oppressed people in India. Their followers are mostly the Adivasis, Dalits, and the poorest of the poor, who work as landless labourers, often below India's mandated minimum wages.

Where do they operate?

The Naxalites mostly operate in the rural and Adivasi areas, often out of the continuous jungles in these regions. Their operations are most prominent in (from North to South) Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, eastern Maharashtra, Telengana (Andhra Pradesh), and western Orissa.

The People's War is active in Andhra Pradesh, western Orissa and eastern Maharashtra while the Maoist Communist Centre is active in Bihar, Jharkhand and northern Chhattisgarh.

Who do they target?

The Naxals declare that they’re against India as a nation. They primarily target and abduct landlords, industrialists and traders -- who control the means of production. Their ultimate motto is to overthrow of the present political system, hence the politicians, police officials, forest contractors also come under severe assault.

At a local level, the Naxalites have also been known to claim 'tax' from the Adivasis and landless farmers. They run a parallel government in these areas.


The Naxalite movement took shape after some members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) split to form the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), after the former agreed to participate in elections and form a coalition government in West Bengal. Communist leader Charu Mazumdar led the split.

Majumdar wrote various articles based on Marx-Lenin-Mao in 1960s, which later came to be known as 'Historic Eight Documents' and formed the basis of Naxalite movement.

Naxalbari uprising

The rebel cadres led by Majumdar launch a peasants' uprising at Naxalbari in Darjeeling district of West Bengal after a tribal youth, who had a judicial order to plough his land, was attacked by "goons" of local landlords. Tribals retaliated and started forcefully capturing back their lands. The CPI (M) government cracked down on the uprising and in 72 days of the "rebellion" a police sub-inspector and nine tribals were killed.

The Congress government at the Centre supported the crackdown. The incident echoed throughout India and Naxalism was born.

Do they face opposition?

When the Naxalite movement first started in the late sixties in West Bengal, it was the CPI-M that cracked down hardest on the Maoist rebels. At village levels, the Naxalites' terror tactics have created local armies to provide protection to the landlords and others. The most infamous of these is the Ranvir Sena in Bihar and Jharkhand, formed by Bhumihars.

Following is the chronology of major Naxal attacks in the country since 2008

June 29, 2008: Three dozen commandos of a crack anti-Maoist force were drowned in an Orissa reservoir after rebels waiting with rocket launchers sank a boat in their deadliest attack on police.

July 16, 2008: 21 policemen were killed when a police van was blown up in a landmine blast in Orissa.

April 13, 2009: 10 paramilitary troops killed in Orissa when Maoists attack a bauxite mine in Koraput district.

April 22, 2009: Maoists stopped a train and held over 500 passengers hostage for more than four hours, deep in the forests of Latehar district (Jharkhand), apparently to “punish” the railways for having run trains on what was a daylong bandh called by them against the death of five villagers in a CRPF operation on April 15.

May 22, 2009: Naxalites kill 16 policemen in the jungles of Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra.

June 10, 2009: Nine policemen ambushed by Maoists during a routine patrol in Saranda jungles in Jharkhand.

June 13, 2009: Naxals launch two landmine and bomb attacks in a small town close to Bokaro, killing 10 policemen and injuring several others.

June 16, 2009: Naxalites kill 11 police officers in a landmine attack followed by armed assault. In a separate attack, four policemen were killed and two others seriously injured when Maoists ambush them at Beherakhand in Palamau district.

June 23, 2009: A group of motorcycle-borne armed Naxal rebels open fire on Lakhisarai district court premises in Bihar and free four of their comrades including the self-style Zonal Commander of Ranchi.

July 18, 2009: Naxalites kill a villager in Bastar and in a separate incident torch a vehicle engaged in road construction work in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh.

July 23, 2009: A 40-year-old tribal killed by Naxalites at Ettapalli taluka in Gadchiroli district.

July 27, 2009: Six persons killed when Naxals trigger a landmine blast at Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh.

July 31, 2009: A special police officer and another person killed by Naxals in Bijapur district.

Sep 4, 2009: Naxals kill four villagers in a forest in Aaded village in Chhattisgarh's Bijapur district.

Sep 26, 2009: Naxals kill BJP MP from Balaghat Baliram Kashyap's sons at Pairaguda village in Jagdalpur (Chhattisgarh).

Sep 30, 2009: Naxalites set ablaze Gram Panchayat offices at Korchi and Belgaon in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra.

Oct 8, 2009: 17 policemen killed when Maoists ambushed them at Laheri police station in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra.

Feb 15, 2010: 24 personnel of the Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) killed as Maoists attack their camp in Silda in West Midnapore district of West Bengal.

April 4, 2010: Maoists triggered a landmine blast killing 11 security personnel of the elite anti-naxal force Special Operations Group (SOG) in Koraput district of Orrisa.

April 6, 2010: 75 CRPF personnel and a Chhattisgarh police official killed in a naxal attack in Dantewada district.

May 8, 2010: Eight CRPF jawans were killed when Naxals blew up a bullet-proof vehicle in Bijapur district of Chhhattisgarh.

May 17, 2010: Naxalites kill 50 in Dantewada's landmine blast in Chhattisgarh.

May 8, 2010: Naxalites kill 8 CRPF personnel after blowing up a vehicle in Narayanpur district.

June 29, 2010: Naxalites kill 26 CRPF personnel after firijng at a 63-member contingent in Raipur.

July 8, 2010: Naxalites kill 7 men in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

July 16, 2010: Naxalites trigger landmine blast in Jharkhand, kill 5 cops.

July 17, 2010: Naxalites kill 3 suspexcted police informers in West Midnapore.

July 20, 2010: Naxalites kill 2 CPI(M) axctivists in Sindurpur vi llage in Purulia.

August 4, 2010: Naxalites blow up a culvert in Giridih, claim five lives.

September 13, 2010: Naxals kill 5 CPI(M) supporters in Jhargram.

September 13, 2010: Naxalites kill 9 in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

October 6, 2010: Naxalites trigger landmine blast in Gadchiroli, claim lives of 6 security personnel.

October 10, 2010: Naxalites gun down two CPI(M) supporters in Purulia.

October 23, 2010: Naxalites trigger landmine blast in Bihar, kill six policemen.

November 23, 2010: Naxalites kill 2 CRPF personnel in Bijapur after triggering a landmine blast.

June 9, 2011: Naxals kill four personnel of Chhattisgarh Armed Forces.

June 26, 2011: Five security men killed in twin Naxal attacks in Chhattisgarh.

July 2, 2011: Naxalites kill 6 tribals in Munger.

August 19, 2011: Naxalites Maoists kill 11 policemen in Chhattisgarh.

October 21, 2011: Naxalites kill 6 cops in Chhattisgarh.

December 4, 2011: Naxalites attack MP's convoy in Jharkhand, kill 8.

January 21, 2012: Naxalites kill 13 cops in ladmine blast in Jharkhand.

April 26, 2012: Naxalites kill 2 villagers, suspected of being police informers, in Maharashtra.

May 13, 2012: Naxalites ambush in Dantewada claims seven lives.

August 7, 2012: Naxalites kill 2 CRPF personnel in Dantewada.

January 7, 2013: Naxalites kill 10 CRPF jawans in gun-fight with the force.

February 22, 2013: Naxalites trigger landmine blast in Gaya, claim 6 policemen’s lives.

May 12, 2013: Naxalites kill 3 cops in attack on Doordarshan tower in Chhattisgarh.

May 25, 2013 Around 300 Naxalites attacked a Congress party convoy, blocking its way with felled trees, setting off a landmine blast and then opening fire in Sukma district. The attack left close to 30 people dead.

First Published: Mon, May 27 2013. 16:18 IST