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Map showing the districts where the Naxalite movement is active (2007)
Naxalite or Naxalvadis (name from the village of Naxalbarimarker in the Indian state of West Bengalmarker where the movement originated), are a group of far-left radical communists, supportive of Maoist political sentiment and ideology. Their origin can be traced to the split in 1967 of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), leading to formation of Communist Party of India (Marxist- Leninist). Initially the movement had its centre in West Bengalmarker. In recent years, they have spread into less developed areas of rural central and eastern Indiamarker, such as Chhattisgarhmarker and Andhra Pradeshmarker through the activities of underground groups like the Communist Party of India .They lead the Naxalite-Maoist insurgency. As of 2009, Naxalites are active across approximately 220 districts in twenty states of India accounting for about 40 percent of India's geographical area, They are especially concentrated in an area known as the "Red corridor", where they control 92,000 square kilometers. According to India's intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, 20,000 armed cadre Naxalites were operating apart from 50,000 regular cadres working in their various mass organizations and millions of sympathisers, and their growing influence prompted Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to declare them as the most serious internal threat to India's national security.The Naxalites are opposed by virtually all mainstream Indian political groups.. In February 2009, Central government announced its plans for simultaneous, co-ordinated counter-operations in all Left-wing extremism-hit states—Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal, to plug all possible escape routes of Naxalites.

Recent Activity


The term Naxalites comes from Naxalbarimarker, a small village in West Bengalmarker, where a extremist section of Communist Party of India (CPI(M)) led by Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal led a violent uprising in 1967, trying to develop a "revolutionary opposition" in opposition to the CPI(M) leadership. The insurrection started on May 25, 1967 in Naxalbari village when a farmer was attacked over a land dispute. Maoists in the guise of local farmers retaliated by attacking the local landlords and escalated the violence. Majumdar greatly admired Mao Zedong, and advocated that Indian peasants and lower classes follow in his footsteps and overthrow the government and upper classes whom he held responsible for their plight. He strengthened the Naxalite movement through his writings, the most famous being the 'Historic Eight Documents' which formed the basis of Naxalite ideology.In 1967 'Naxalites' organized the All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR), and later broke away from CPI(M). Violent 'uprisings' were organized in several parts of the country. In 1969 AICCCR gave birth to Communist Party of India .

Practically all Naxalite groups trace their origin to the CPI. A separate tendency from the beginning was the Maoist Communist Centre, which evolved out of the Dakshin Desh-group. MCC later fused with People's War Group to form Communist Party of India . A third tendency is that of the Andhra revolutionary communists, which was mainly presented by UCCRI, following the mass line legacy of T. Nagi Reddy. That tendency broke with AICCCR at an early stage.

During the 1970s the movement was fragmented into several disputing factions. By 1980 it was estimated that around 30 Naxalite groups were active, with a combined membership of 30 000. A 2004 home ministry estimate puts numbers at that time as "9,300 hardcore underground cadre… [holding] around 6,500 regular weapons beside a large number of unlicensed country-made arms". According to Judith Vidal-Hall (2006), "More recent figures put the strength of the movement at 15,000, and claim the guerrillas control an estimated one fifth of India's forests, as well as being active in 160 of the country's 604 administrative districts." India's Research and Analysis Wing, believed in 2006 that 20,000 Naxals are currently involved in the growing insurgency

Today some groups have become legal organisations participating in parliamentary elections, such as Communist Party of India Liberation. Others, such as Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India Janashakti, are engaged in armed guerrilla struggles

Violence in Bengal

The Naxal movement was immensely popular with not only the radical sections of the students movement in Calcuttamarker, but the whole student body of Bengal undeniably were sympathetic about them since the mainstream Communist ideology had proved itself to be hypocritical and farcical in practice, as they stand to this day. The state machinery of India systematically annihilated this student support baseline from the whole movement as international human rights watchdog bodies picked up frantic calls of disappearances of students and intellectuals. Between 1969 and 1979 an estimated 5000 students and intellectuals disappeared or were killed under mysterious conditions. The West Bengal Left Front maintains that these students and intellectuals left their education to join violent activities of the Naxalites. Charu Majumdar progressively changed the tactics of CPI(ML), and declared that revolutionary warfare was to take place not only in the rural areas but everywhere and spontaneously. Thus Majumdar's 'annihilation line', a dictum that Naxalites should assassinate individual "class enemies" as a part of the insurrection, was exploited by state media and the Bengal Left Front to infuse a sense of demonic identity into Naxals and over thirty years portrayed them as a social evil. Whereas the statistical data refers to the theory being only practiced against such elements in civil society who were deemed to be "class enemies": the police, landlords, and corrupt politicians cutting across mainstream party lines.

Throughout Calcuttamarker, schools were shut down. The police claims that students took over Jadavpur University and used the machine shop facilities to make pipe guns to attack the police and that their headquarters became Presidency College, Kolkata. The movement soon found ardent supporters amongst most of the educated class, and Delhi's prestigious St. Stephen's College, alma mater of many contemporary Indian leaders and thinkers, became a hotbed of Naxalite activities.

The strategy of individual terrorism soon proved counterproductive. Eventually, the Chief Minister, Siddhartha Shankar Ray, began to institute counter-measures against the Naxalites. The West Bengal police and the state sponsored CPI(Marxist) cadres fought back to stop the advancement of Naxalites. The student part of the movement was cruelly repressed by numerous disappearing s, staged encounters, and a doldrum of state sponsored media allegations tarnishing the image of the Naxalite movement and this massive and relentless public brain washing campaign was partly successful in hijacking public opinion sympathetic of the Naxalite ideology to that of misinformed 'fear'. The human rights violations on the West Bengal police went unabated for decades after this to attain the demonic proportions of the eighties and nineties where they have been appropriately termed as the 'uniformed mafia' . Buddhadev Bhattacharya tactically led from the front line as the police and home minister of West Bengal during the same period to turn the evil nexus of CPIM and the West Bengal Police into a feared repressive regime which was the most effective counteractive agent against the onslaught of Naxalites.

Moreover, the movement was torn about by disputes infused by state intelligence. In 1971 CPI(ML) was split in two, as Satyanarayan Singh parted ways with Majumdar's leadership. In 1972 Majumdar was arrested by the police and subsequently he died in Alipore Jail under unexplainable circumstances. After his death the State unsuccessfully tried fragmenting this movement for the next three decades.

Lalgarhmarker, West Bengal has emerged as a region close to coming completely under control of the Naxalites after the group threw out the local police and attacked members of the ruling communist government in late May 2009. The state government initiated a huge operation with central paramilitary forces and state armed police to retake Lalgarh in early June. Maoist leader Kishenji claimed in an interview that the mass Naxalite movement in Lalgarh in 2009 aimed at creating a 'liberated zone' against "oppression of the establishment Left and its police" has given them a major base in West Bengal for the first time since the Naxalite uprising went underground in the mid-1970s and that "We will have an armed movement going in Calcutta by 2011".

Cultural references

The British musical group Asian Dub Foundation have a song called Naxalite.This song was part of the soundtrack to the 1999 film Brokedown Palace.In 2005 a movie called Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi directed by Sudhir Mishra was released with the backdrop of Naxalite movement.In August 2008, Kabeer Kaushik's Chamku starring Bobby Deol and Priyanka Chopra explored the story of a boy who is brain-washed to take arms against the state.

There is a reference to a character, in the novel, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, joining with the Naxalites.

The 1998 film Haazar chaurasi ki Maa (based on the novel, "Hazar Churashir Maa" by Mahasweta Devi) (Mother of 1084-the number assigned to her son) starring Jaya Bachchan gives a very sympathetic portrayal of a Naxalbari militant killed by the state.The 2009 Malayalam movie 'Thalappavu' portrays the story of Naxal Varghese, who was shot dead by the police during the 70s.

The Kannada movie Veerappa Nayaka directed by S.Narayan portrays Vishnuvardhan - a Gandhian with his son becoming a Naxalite. The 2007 Kannada movie Maathaad Maathaadu Mallige directed by Nagathihalli Chandrashekhar again portrays Vishnuvardhan as a Gandhian, confronting a Naxalite Sudeep showing that the ways adopted by Naxals will only lead to violence and will not achieve its objective.

Eka Nakshalwadya Cha Janma, (Marathi: The birth of a Naxal), a novel written by Vilas Balkrishna Manohar, a volunteer with the Lok Biradari Prakalp, is a fictional account of a Madia Gond Juru's unwilling journey of life his metamorphosis from an exploited nameless tribal to a Naxal.

Deaths related to violence

Violence has peaked in India from Maoist or Naxalite separatist violence being more dangerous to India's national security, as declared by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

From the Ministry of Home Affairs it has been stated that:

  • 1996: 156 deaths
  • 1997: 428 deaths
  • 1998: 270 deaths
  • 1999: 363 deaths
  • 2000: 50 deaths
  • 2001: 100+ deaths
  • 2002: 140 deaths
  • 2003: 451 deaths
  • 2004: 500+ deaths
  • 2005: 892 deaths
  • 2006: 749 deaths
  • 2007: (as of September 30, 2007) 384 deaths
(related to Naxalite insurgency)

  • 2008: 938 casualties (including 38 Maoists).

  • 2009: Naxalites separatists struck at the first phase of elections on 16 April, 2009 in Bihar, Chattisgarh and Jharkhand killing 18 civilians and security forces. Later, on 23 April, 2009, they also struck in the second phase of polling in Jamshedpur and surrounding areas in Jharkhand injuring several member of the polling party. May 2009: 16 police die in suspected Maoist attack

The BBC maintains that upwards of 6,000 people have died in the Naxal uprising.

See also


  1. Co-ordinated operations to flush out Naxalites soon The Economic Times, Feb 6, 2009.
  2. Hindustan Times: History of Naxalism
  3. Singh, Prakash. The Naxalite Movement in India. New Delhi: Rupa & Co., 1999. p. 101.
  4. Quoted in Judith Vidal-Hall, "Naxalites", p. 73–75 in Index on Censorship, Volume 35, Number 4 (2006). Quoted on p. 74.
  5. Judith Vidal-Hall, "Naxalites", p. 73–75 in Index on Censorship, Volume 35, Number 4 (2006). p. 74.
  6. Judith Vidal-Hall, "Naxalites", p. 73–75 in Index on Censorship, Volume 35, Number 4 (2006). p. 73.
  8. Govt. of India " the number of incidents of violence and police/civilian casualties were 1435 and 658 as compared to 1420 and 636 for the corresponding period of the year 2007"[1]
  10. [2]

Further reading

  • Naxalite Politics in India, by J. C. Johari, Institute of Constitutional and Parliamentary Studies, New Delhi, . Published by Research Publications, 1972.
  • The Naxalite Movement, by Biplab Dasgupta. Published by , 1974.
  • The Naxalite Movement: A Maoist Experiment, by Sankar Ghosh. Published by Firma K.L. Mukhopadhyay, 1975. ISBN 0883865688.
  • The Naxalite Movement in India: Origin and Failure of the Maoist Revolutionary Strategy in West Bengal, 1967-1971, by Sohail Jawaid. Published by Associated Pub. House, 1979.
  • In the Wake of Naxalbari: A History of the Naxalite Movement in India, by Sumanta Banerjee. Published by Subarnarekha, 1980.
  • India's Simmering Revolution: The Naxalite Uprising, by Sumanta Banerjee. Published by Zed Books, 1984. ISBN 0862320372.
  • Tribal Guerrillas: The Santals of West Bengal and the Naxalite Movement, by Edward Duyker. Published by Oxford University Press, 1987.
  • The Naxalite Movement in India, by Prakash Singh. Published by Rupa, 1995. ISBN 8171672949.

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