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The Maoist Menace: Terrorism in India
by Prof. R. N. Mishra Bookmark and Share

An organized group of social and political activists perpetrating violence and keeping the people under threats in certain parts of rural India over the past few years are variously known as the Maoists, Naxalites and the red rebels etc. The Naxalites of the sixties have been divided into several splinter groups. One of them is called the Maoists who believe in spreading terrorism. They are of recent origin. The term `Maoist' is widely used by the media and the common men for the terrorists of the present brand.  Eleven states of the country including Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Madhya Prdesh, Bihar, Maharastra and Uttar Pradesh, are faced with the problem of terrorism from the Maoists.

Between January 2006 and October 2007 as many as 1221 persons have been killed and the incidents of violence which have taken place, have increased to 1258. The terrorists are equipped with land mines, bombs, self loading riffles (SLR), A.K-47, cartridges and other sophisticated weapons. They have their hideouts in forests and hilly areas and operate in a well organized way. The Prime Minister of India is reported to have said that the Maoist terror is the `single biggest internal security challenge' (1) that India faces now.

The plans of action of the Maoists include hostage takings, kidnapping, blasting on railway tracks, assassinations, arson, lootings and guerrilla warfare inside the forests. Their targets are carefully chosen and they operate in a planned manner from remote and inaccessible tribal and rural areas. There are certain pockets in all these states which have witnessed the worst kind of violence. They aim at killing political leaders, key functionaries of the rural local bodies and policemen and loot arms from the police and reserve government armory.  At times they kill people in the areas of their operation whom they suspect to be their enemies and informers of the police. Revenge killing and killing of people who refuse their demands for cash payment are carried on regularly to boost the morale of the terrorist squads. The civilian population is kept in a state of perpetual threat and shock Shopkeepers, rich landlords, mill-owners and contractors of village roads are compelled to pay them security money failing which they are hacked in the public. Very often the state intelligence agencies fail even to get an inkling of their operations. 

The method of killing is` gruesome'. They killed 90 people in 2002,136 in 2003, 70 in 2004 and 122 in 2005.According to Sitaram Yechuri, leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), it is an internecine struggle in which 80% of those who are killed are ordinary citizens and some of them were members of the other rival groups but not class enemies even judged by Maoist criteria. (2) 

In June 2005 about 1,000 men and women heavily armed, attacked Madhuban town in the East Champaran district of Bihar and in November 2005, more than 500 terrorists raided Jehanabad jail and freed all the prisoners. Very recently, the Prime Minister's rural roads scheme (Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana) has been badly affected by the demands made by the rebels. They are demanding 10% of the tender value from the contractors who are engaged in the construction work connecting 10,000 villages. Refusal for payment led to attack on men and machinery. Holding crucial projects to ransom is a new trend. (3)

The result is that no agency comes forward to undertake developmental works out of fear for the terrorists. In the state of Jharkhand they hijacked the Barkakana-Barwadih train in March 2006 and kept the passengers hostage for the whole night. About three hundred of them attacked the camp of the Central Industrial Security Force at Bokaro in the same state. 

The Bastar region in the state of Chhatisgarh is regarded the bastion of the terrorists.. The rebels have intensified their activities in the region comprising the districts of Dantewada, Bijapur, Narayanpur, Bastar and Kanker. In an estimate made by the Police about 5000 Maoists armed with A.K.47 rifles, mortar, rocket launchers and land mines are active in the state, backed by another 20,000 cadres who carry self-loading rifles and traditional weapons like bows and arrows and axes. With a view to curb the growing menace of terrorism, the local tribesmen of the region started a movement called `Salwa Judum' (campaign for peace) in June,2005,supported by the state government with arms and monetary backup. Their organization was a sort of people's militia. But their efforts excited the wrath of the terrorists. The situation compelled 50,000 people, mostly tribals to desert their villages and settle in government run refugee camps. In July, 2006, a squad of 600 guerrillas armed with automatic rifles stormed into the government-run relief camp at Arabore in Dantewada district and killed at least 17 tribesmen. They opened indiscriminate fire on the tribals and abducted many of them. The rebels burnt at least 20 small houses.(4) 

Not only the instances of killing security personnel have swelled up, the number of civilian people killed by the insurgents has also increased over the years. Other instances of violence include blowing up of a truck, killing 55 persons on February 28,2006, a land mine blast killing 13 persons, taking hostage of 13 persons who were beheaded in April,2006 and looting of A.K47s,SLRs and 303 rifles from the Police in Dantewada district. In July, 2007 in an encounter between the security personnel and the Maoists in the same district, 24 police personnel and 20 Maoists were killed. The bodies of the deceased Maoists, however, could not be traced out. The incident took place while a combing operation was conducted jointly by the CRPF and Chhatisgarh police looking for an ultra Nepali Maoist camp near the forest of the Aerober police station. They had to face 300 to 400 Maoists who exchanged fire with them for about five hours. .The latest incident of violence by the terrorists has taken place on December19,2007 in which 12 security personnel,8 from the Chhatisgarh Armed Force and 4 from the District Police of Dantewada, were kidnapped in the course of an exchange of fires and killed later. The A.K47 rifles and cartridges in their possession were also taken away by the terrorists, leaving the dead bodies in the Gopalpalli-Krisnaram forest. (5)

In Orissa, the Maoists have been intensifying their violent activities in the tribal and backward districts of Malkangiri, Koraput, Rayagada, Gajapati, Sambalpur, Deogarh, Sundargarh and Mayurbhanj .In the district of Sambalpur the Maoists mercilessly killed the Sarpanch of Tampargarh Panchayat in Jauary, 2003, following which 17 persons were put under arrest. The incident made the state police aware of the Maoist presence in the state. Between January and July 2003, the Maoists killed at least 8 civilians, leaving about 10 wounded, kidnapped 18 persons which included one school teacher, two functionaries of the rural local bodies, 14 daily laborers and one civil contractor. They also threatened to blow up Kisinda police station. The police had two encounters with the Maoists, exchanging fires and arrested 8 terrorists during the year. During 2006 and 2007 the Maoists bombed a farm house of a local land lord and looted paddy near Dhama police station and kidnapped seven persons including a driver and a shopkeeper. The dead body of the shopkeeper was later found in the forest near Rairakhol .About 7 Maoists were killed in the exchange fires with the police during the period..

The Finance Minister and the Minister for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes of the state, including some lower ranking policemen and civilians are included in the hit list of the Maoists at the moment. An incident of revenge killing by the Maoists was reported recently in Rayagada district. The victim Santosh Gagrana, a tribal youth of 26 years old, who was formerly active in a gang called Karlaghat Anchalika Sangha, a Maoist outfit, laid down arms following the surrender policy of the state government announced in June,2006 for rehabilitation of the Maoists. They suspected him of being a police informer and killed him with sharp weapons at a distance of two kilometers from his village.

One of the recent most attacks of the Maoists has been reported in the border of Orissa and Jharkhan at Biramitrapur on January 1,2008, unleashing a reign of terror in the locality. (6) This powerful attack came at a time when the Orissa police claim to have achieved a breakthrough in containing the Maoists in Orissa. About 500 rebels launched their campaign at the mid night, surrounding the small town of Biramitrapur and launching an attack to blow up the Baunsajor police station of Jharkhand state.  As stated by an eye-witness the rebels surrounded the police station and then announced in a loud-speaker giving a call to the police to surrender their arms. After a little while they opened indiscriminate fire and an encounter ensued between them and the police for nearly four hours. The rebels equipped with automatic rifles hurled petrol bombs at the police and also had a plan to bombard the nearby residential buildings. While a police man died in the firing, leaving six injured, the bodies of the dead and wounded rebels were taken swiftly by the attackers. 

The Maoist attack on the wild life forest range office late at night at Badrama of Sambalpur district on January 4, 2008 proved beyond any doubt that the police have completely failed in gathering intelligence of Maoist activities. For about one and half hour the Maoists persisted in carrying on their violent activities and in the process burnt the range office and 15 motor vehicles and destroyed property worth more than one crore of rupees. Further, they snatched away one303 rifle, cash worth 15000 rupees, two cell phones, gold ornaments and dresses from the official residence of the forester inflicting torture on his family members.(7) The attack was made by a gang of 12 persons including four women rebels. The police launched a counter offensive on the following day with two units of special operation group (SOG). Exchange of fires continued between the police and the Maoists throughout the night for about nine hours in the forest, firing 400 rounds by the police and 100 rounds by the rebels. Two Maoists of the gang aged 25 and 26 years respectively who were residents of the nearby villages were killed in the encounter and the police seized three self-loading rifles, two 303 rifle,26 rounds of live ammunition, blank cartridges and three bags containing Maoist literature. 

In view of the threat from the terrorists the Chief Minister of Orissa sought more aid from the centre at a meeting on internal security chaired by the Prime Minister. He demanded sanction of five more Indian Reserve Battalions (IRB), the deployment of two more battalions of central paramilitary forces in the state and special grant of 30 crores of rupees for the training resource centre of special operation group coming up in the state. The state government is developing, at present, a permanent training unit for counterterrorism, jungle warfare and anti-extremist operation (8)

Andhra Pradesh is also one of the worst hit states by the terrorists. They killed a former state interior minister A.Madhab Reddy in 2000. They were also responsible for an attempt on the life of A.Chandrababu Naidu, former Chief Minister, in 2003. In July, 2006 the police killed eight rebels which included one top leader and five women Maoists. The clash broke out when the police raided a meeting of 80 Maoists in Prakasham district. The state police claim to have killed 80 rebels in 2006. By August 2007 as many as 650 more Maoists are added to the hit list of the state police. They are at present more active in the rural areas of Visakhapatnam bordering the state of Orissa (9) 

Maoist terror has spread to Karnataka very recently where the terrorists set a government bus alight. Five of them were killed by the police in the Chikmagalur district.

The instances of violence cited here are illustrative rather than exhaustive.
The terrorists are in league with Naxalites, Maoist Communist Centre, People's War Group and other radical extremists. The Naxalbari movement started in West Bengal by the militants of the Marxist and Leninist groups in the sixties against the landlords and their movements spread to the neighboring areas of Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh where radical left parties under different banners carried on their extremist activities. After the formation of the new states of Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh, the Maoists have built their powerful support bases in both the states. They have close links with the Maoists of Nepal who played a significant role in the Loktantra Andolan (Movement for democracy). In January 2007, the Maoists won 83 seats in a 330-member Parliament. In April, five of them were sworn in as ministers and one more as junior minister in Nepal. There are talks about a revolutionary corridor extending from Nepal to Andhra Pradesh across six Indian states including Bihar, Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand,Andhra Pradesh ,Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. It is being planned by them to convert the region into a compact revolutionary zone. Their slogan is` from Pashupati to Tirupati'. They are also in alliance with other terrorist groups active in South Asia.

A statement attributed to the rebels reads:

'The Indian monopoly capitalism ruling class, the successor of British imperialism, has been pursuing the expansionist policy, pressure, intervention and sabotage against the national aspirations of the people and neighboring countries. It has been endeavoring to quell, with guns and state terror, the aspirations of the people of Kashmir and the North-Eastern States and the new democratic movement in Andhra and Bihar and intensifying the pressure, sabotage and proactive activities under the strategy of making Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka as new Sikkim. With an intention to isolate Pakistan after the end of the cold war and fulfill its desire for regional hegemony, the Indian ruling class has knelt down before the US imperialism and has opened the doors for them for the merciless exploitation of the people of this region under the pretext of liberalization.' (10) 

Most of the rebels are young and in their teens and twenties. The recruits are school and college dropouts of the rural areas. They have a children's division-the Balmandal where the rebels provide the children military training to prepare them for any situation. The rebel leaders, however, have denied the report of the eye-witness of using the children in the armed conflict. According to them children are engaged as messengers and informers.

The terrorists are dressed with military fatigues, some wear military boots, others flip flops and some are barefoot. Young women have also joined the cadres.

Dipti, a young woman terrorist, who surrendered herself voluntarily to the police on November 25, 2007 at Sambalpur hails from a remote place near Naktideol. She comes from a poor family consisting of 6 members. She gave up her schooling when she was in VIII standard in a rural school. She was lured to the cadre on the promise of a job. She was trained by the Maoists and was involved in a number of violent incidents including burning of a truck. She has made it clear in her statement that women in the cadre are not only tortured by the Maoists but they are also sexually exploited. 

Rasmita Nayak, another woman Maoist, has a similar story to tell. She was educated up to IV standard in the village school of Deogarh district. A man and a woman persuaded her to join the cadre on the promise of giving her money. She was given training in the camps to use rifle and was engaged in their operations later. She also in her statement to the police admitted the charges of torture and sexual exploitation. 

Solostica who is 24 years old also voluntarily surrendered herself to the police. She has education up to matriculation. She along with her three other sisters used to work as daily laborers in a village in Deogarh district. She joined in the cadre in 2005 and after completion of training in various camps assumed the command of a women's  group. She was also assured of a job and regular payment of monthly salary in return of her services to the poor and needy, fight for removing injustice from the society and efforts for bridging the gap between the rich and the poor. In her statement to the police, she narrated the various forms of torture meted out to the women cadres. According to her the women Maoists are required to dance and sing in their parties to entertain the men folk. They were also sexually exploited in their parties in the forest. Solostica was highly disillusioned at sight of the carnage of poor and innocent people and extortion of heavy amount of cash which was alleged to have been appropriated by two leaders of their gang. The lavish life style of the leaders was a sore point for all. (11)


It is learnt from the statement of a Maoist leader to the police that the terrorists of Orissa contribute a sum of rupees 25 lakh per month to the central organization and spend one lakh of rupees for their state organization. It is the industrialists, contractors, cannabis traders, big businessmen and land lords from whom they collect donation furtively to finance their organization. Incidentally, it may be pointed out here that in the interior forest areas of western Orissa cannabis is illegally cultivated in large patches of forest land which has been seized by the police recently. The way they built their organization in Orissa five years back, is also clear from the statement of Dama Deo, an illiterate man of 35 years old from the state of Jharkhand who was associated with the terrorists for 18 years and worked as the secretary of the state committee of Orissa. He changed his name several times and picked up the local dialect and was instrumental in spreading the organization in western districts of Deogarh, Sambalpur, Sundargarh, Subarnapur, Bargarh and Angul, operating from his head office in Cuttack. He claimed to have inducted 6 young women to the organization and arranged their marriages with other terrorists as no girl prefers to marry a Maoist. Deo has two wives residing in Jharkhand. Further, it is revealed by him that young men and women after recruitment are imparted training in the use of arms in Paresshnath jungle in Girdih district of Jharkhand before  they are engaged in their operations in Orissa. According to him the terrorists have become more powerful after the merger of the Maoists with the People' s War Group in 2004.

They champion the cause of the poor peasants and the rights of landless workers at the bottom rung of India's caste and class hierarchy. They claim to distribute sacks of rice and pulses to the masses, collect funds to run schools and organize mass weddings for the poor people. They also target corrupt officials, big landholders and bank employees who advance loans to the agriculturists. According to them people are hungry because` there is no food to eat and no job for them. They don't have clothes and successive government does not bother for their development'. They claim to lead people to a new democratic revolution. According to them people who create trouble for the poor should be dealt with. They claim: 'We are not terrorists. We are fighting a people's war. We want the proletariat to rule, not the imperialistic governments.' (12) Their proclaimed long term plan is to capture the cities and overthrow the Indian State. They are sustained in their hideouts in the forest with the help of leaders who run underground front organizations in cities and urban areas. In December, 2007, a Maoist leader called James was arrested by the police in a thickly populated locality of Sambalpur. The police claim that James was involved in killing more than 100 persons which included 47 police personnel. He was a trainer and second in command of the Sambalpur-Deogarh-Sundargarh zonal committee of the Maoist organization. 

Their ideological stand is supported by a few poor people in certain parts of the country but majority of them obey the terrorists out of fear of retaliation. Lack of transparency in the work of the lower echelon of revenue bureaucracy such as the land surveyor, amin, revenue inspector and Tahasildar etc who directly come in contact with the farmers and exploit them is one of the most important reasons for the villagers' support to the terrorists. The system of issuing photo-identity cards to the farmers for sale of paddy produced by them in their land has resulted in harassment of almost all the farmers. The small and marginal farmers are hard hit by this measure introduced by the government of Orissa in recent years. Every farmer has to bribe and waste a lot of working days in obtaining the card from the revenue inspector who turns up for work casually. Further, poor people living near the forest who live on selling firewood and collection of forest produce come into clashes with the forest officials. People's grievances relating to land and forest give the Maoists an upper hand to garner support of the villagers. Mass poverty and their rising expectations compel the disgruntled rural youths exposed to school and college education to take to arms with the rebels. 

The Maoists claim to run parallel government in a large part of 165 affected districts of the country. The Jharkhand High Court has expressed concern over the fact that more and more people approach the Maoists to settle their disputes with other villagers.(13) Government courts takes years to dispense justice and the justice is too costly for the poor villagers. On the other hand, the rebels, on approach, administer justice swiftly, most often from the barrel of a gun. This is particularly true in matters of land dispute mostly arising out of acts of omission and commission of the revenue officials. 

It seems the villagers are stuck in the middle-between the Maoists and the state. The incident that took place in a village in Sambalpur district of Orissa illustrates the point clearly. A group of Maoists camping in the forest near Dakara village of Maneswar Block used to terrorize the villagers to give them food and shelter. The police and security personnel, on the other hand, hounded them to gather intelligence about the terrorists and accused them of abetting terrorism through their help to the Maoists.(14) A similar incident of harassment by the police has taken place in some villages of Jujumura Block for which the villagers have sought the intervention of the district administration. They are facing the problem for the last four years.(15 )

The foregoing accounts leave no scope for doubt about the fact that the efforts made so far to overcome the Maoist menace have failed. Terrorism is growing fast. Large parts of the country have come under the specter of terrorism. A survey indicates that about 17 crores of people of India are affected by the problem. The areas hit by the menace are the tribal inhabited backward parts of the country where the pace of development is very slow and social change is imperceptible. Extreme poverty coupled with malnutrition, diseases and infant mortality rule the roost in all these areas. Special emphasis is needed to accelerate the pace of development and removal of mass poverty. Funds allocated for this purpose by the Union Government, though insufficient, are not fully utilized in time. Last year a substantial amount of central grant as much as six thousand seven hundred crores of rupees could not be utilized by the government of the afflicted states. On the other hand, the state leaders clamor for more central grants and hold the rebels responsible for obstructing the developmental process. It is corruption on the part of key functionaries at the district and at the rural local levels that block the trickle down effect of developmental efforts at a cost of huge investment. 

An example from tribal district of Koraput on the relationship between the sarpanches (elected heads of village level local bodies) and the district administration aptly reflects the functioning of developmental projects in rural areas of the district. It is reported that feeling neglected by the district administration in matters of implementation of development projects ,the elected village heads have formed a union to protect their legislative rights. Out of 226,126 of them have formed the Koraput Zilla Sarpanch Mahasangha to voice protest the district administration as they are not involved in various works carried out by the government in their panchayat areas. The Mahasangha is intended to work as a platform to fight for their rights. It has been pointed out by them that there are several instances of unconstitutional work on the part of the administration by arbitrarily removing sarpanches. They also complained against mismanagement of funds meant for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). They alleged that a bulk of the funds remained unutilized since thy were not released on time and that the administration does not work as per the action plans prepared in the villages.(16)

What is still worse is that corruption thrives on political patronage of which the rebels too are the beneficiaries. Making efforts for putting down insurgency by the police on the one hand and extending political patronage to the rebels on the other can never stamp the rebellion out. The net outcome has been tragic deaths of the unfortunate civilians, policemen and the misguided terrorists, young men and women dreaming for a brighter future. 

The state police invariably face the problem of deficit in resources, training, technology, and infrastructure and manpower profiles. Corrupt practices followed in recruitment, transfer and posting of police personnel very often speak of the low morale of the force. It is estimated that there is one policeman for every 700 Indians and the strength of police force is getting reduced day by day since the state government fail to make recruitment of adequate police personnel on time due to fund constraints. In India there are 143 police personnel for every one lakh of people while the UN norm for the same is 222.In western countries there are 250 to 500 police personnel for every lakh of population.(17) 

The colonial legacy still continues to guide the Indian police organization which, to a great extent, is regulated by the Indian Police Act of 1861.The police in India is yet to maintain a friendly image in the eyes of the weaker sections of the people. The poor people look upon the police as an instrument of their exploitation. Far from approaching them for help, people in general fight shy of them and this attitude of the people towards the police is easily exploited by the Maoists for their purpose. It is the people-Maoists nexus that keeps the rebels fueling for more and more violent expeditions.

While the police forces need to be well equipped to face the Maoist challenge, special attention is urgently required for development of the backward and underdeveloped parts of the states. At the political level special initiatives need to be taken to start dialogues with the rebels to bring them to the mainstream of the society. It needs to be followed up as a mission in dedicated way, making the rebels convinced of their misdeeds. Mass media focusing on assassinations and destruction of public property in large scale by the Maoists may have some impact on the terrorists. 

The police have to play a proactive role to win the support of the villagers. In this context, the public relations campaign started by the police in the Naxal-hit Rayagada district needs special mention. The police are organizing rural sports and games, tribal functions, entertainment programmes, magic shows and free medical camps in the rural areas in order to build confidence of the masses in the police force and to shed their image as exploiters as viewed by the backward masses. As reported in a local daily, this programme has brought to light the mystery surrounding a gruesome murder of a person named Mukund Madhi who was killed by a gang called Papulur Dalam, an outfit of Maoists 'organization of Malkangiri district. It is reported that the rebels killed Madhi in the presence of the villagers as they suspected him as a police informer and also allegedly ate his flesh. The villagers who kept their mouth shut out of fear to the rebels revealed the truth to police when they came in close contact with them (18) 

The Maoist violence has greatly stirred up the deep-rooted inequities prevailing in Indian society since long. To quell up the growing menace of violence through counterterrorism by the police also involves violation of human rights of the innocent rural folk who are poor and illiterate. Political freedom has no meaning for those who wallow in abject poverty in accessible interior parts of the country.
An attitudinal change on the part of policy makers is imperative. The problem is getting more complicated in view of the involvement of the Maoists in the people's movements against displacement and land acquisition at the wake of industrialization in West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. They are alleged to have induced violence in to all these movements.


1. Statement of the Prime Minister in the meeting on internal security. As many as 19 meetings have been convened till the end of December, 2007.
2. Sitaram Yechuri, 'CPI(Maoist) Violence: Revolutionary or Anarchist,'
December 1, 2005
3. Yahoo News, December 22, 2007
4. The Times of India, (Bhubaneswar-national),17 July,2006
5. The Times of India, ( Bhubaneswar-national),20 December,2007
6. The Times of India, January 2,2008
8. The Times of India, December21, 2007
9. India, August 13, 2007
10. Quoted in B.Raman, South Asia Analysis Group, Paper No 446, April 18, 2002
11 See the statements of the rebels circulated in the Sambad in Oriya, 26 November,2007
12. The Christian Science Monitor, ``Maoist rebels spread across rural India' from the August 22, 2006 edition
13. Ibid
14. Information gathered by the authors from the villagers and others government agencies
15.The Samaj, (Sambalpur edition in Oriya) January 20, 2008
16.SundayTimes of India, (Bhubaneswar-National), January 20, 2008
17. See K.P.S Gill, Pioneer, April 28, 2007
18. Sambad, (Sambalpur edition in Oriya), January 14, 2008    

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