Left Wing Extremism: Threat to India's Internal Security

April 24, 2023 Uma Shankar Sahu



Over time, India has transformed itself from a developing nation to one which is now playing a pivotal role in shaping the future of its people and the world. Despite this growth, India still suffers from an internal security threat. In recent years, the Maoist and Naxalite Movement, also known as Left Wing Extremism (LWE), has impacted the development of affected districts and states. The region affected by Left Wing Extremism is called the 'Red Corridor.' The red corridor is the region in the eastern, central and southern parts of India experiencing Naxal-Maoist insurgency (Pandita, 2011). In recent times, the geographical spread of LWE violence in the affected region has been shrinking considerably, with only 46 regions reporting LWE-related violence in 2021, compared to 96 districts in 2010.

Similarly, the number of regions associated with approximately 90% of LWE violence classified as "LWE most affected regions" dropped to 30 from 35 in 2018 and further to 25 in the year 2021 (MHA, 2022). 191 Police Stations (PSs) in 46 districts across 8 States recorded LWE violence reported in 2021 compared to 330 PSs in 76 districts across 10 States in 2013. Just 25 areas account for 90% of the LWE violence, significantly limiting the arc of the violence (MHA, 2022). The people in the Red Corridor aim to carry out an armed revolution on the model of the Chinese Revolution, which they call the New Democratic Revolution, and bring in their form of government (Ramana, 2003).

Historical Overview of LWE

On December 26, 1925, the Communist Party of India (CPI) was formed by a few young patriots in Kanpur, and CPI joined the electoral in 1951 (Brief History of CPI, n.d.). Due to ideological differences, CPI split into two parties. The CPI (M) was born in the struggle against revisionism and sectarianism in the communist movement at the national level (About us, n.d.). During one of the kisan sabhas organised by the CPI (M) in Siliguri in West Bengal in1965, the leader of the meeting, Charu Mujumdar, propounded the idea of "snatching away" the land back from the oppressors. He believed that nothing could be done by taking the problem to the parliament; hence the peasants should now resort to a revolution and seek back the land which rightfully belonged to them. On May 25, 1967, an armed peasant uprising led by Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal of CPI (M) broke out at Naxalbari village in Siliguri of West Bengal. This uprising is known as Naxalbari Movement (Banerjee, 1984). No discussion about the origin of Naxalism in India can be complete without mentioning Charu Majumdar, who was heavily criticised and expelled from the party, later in 1969, floated his organisation, the Communist Party of India Maoism-Leninism CPI (ML). In 1971, Satyanarayan Singh revolted against the leadership of Majumdar. In 1972, after the death of Majumdar, CPI (ML) split into CPI (ML) and CPI (ML) Liberation (Dubey, 2013).

When the CPI (ML) was founded in 1969, some groups retained a separate identity and remained outside of CPI (ML). One such group was named Dakshin Desh (Basu, 2000). In 1975 the group took the name Maoist Communist Centre. The Naxalbari movement led by CPI (ML) spread to Srikakulam and North Telangana districts of Andhra Pradesh by 1971. The Andhra Committee split away from CPI (ML) and became the People's War Group (PWG) led by Kondapalli Seetharamiah in 1976, which formed CPI (ML) People's War group in 1980. They decided to persist in armed struggle, and during 1980-85, the party formed armed squads (Dalams). It spread its area of operation to other States and indulged in attacks on the police, kidnapping, extortion, and killing of civilians and political leaders. Its strength kept increasing through ups and downs (Mitra, 2011).

After being downhill for almost two decades, the new chapter in this movement began when the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCC) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) People's War (also known as the People's War Group) merged to form a new entity, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) on September 21, 2004 (Institute for Conflict Management, n.d.).

Threats from LWE

"It would not be an exaggeration to say that the problem of Naxalism is the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country," Dr Manmohan Singh said while addressing a day-long meeting in New Delhi of chief ministers of six states, severely hit by Naxalism (PMO, 2006). "At no other time has India faced multiple security challenges. We face infiltration in JK, Maoist and Naxalite problems in central India, several insurgent and separatist groups in Northeast and the threat of terror from several groups." Said then Minister of Home Affairs P. Chidambaram (India faces multiple security threats, Left Wing Extremism biggest threat: P Chidambaram, 2011). This statement by our leaders is enough to tell us all about the threat to our country from left-wing extremism. Many people lost their lives in the last 50 years due to LWE.

Among the influential Left Wing Extremist groups, CPI (Maoist) remains the most active outfit, accounting for more than 80% of total LWE violence. The Dantewada incident of April 06, 2010, marks the efforts made by CPI-M to revive erstwhile strongholds along the inter-state border region of various states of the 'Dandakaranya' region. This tactical measure by Maoists was intended to divert the attention of the security forces from its core areas of operation in the central region of India. However, revival efforts by Maoists in the border areas of Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, the establishment of a base at the tri-junction of Kerala-Karnataka-Tamil Nadu, and the formation of a new Zone at the tri-junction of Madhya Pradesh-Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh did not meet the desired success due to periodic interdictions of senior leaders by the security forces (Garge, Left Wing Extremism- A Brief Security Review, 2017).

Left Wing Extremism poses a significant threat. They threaten the locals before elections and prevent them from voting, violating the principle of participative democracy. They resort to violence through their guerrilla tactics and attempt to set up their government in the local villages. They conduct their judiciary court, where they resolve the matters of locals. They destroy the roads, transport system and government resources, thereby creating hindrances in governance and last-mile connectivity and further depriving people with low incomes; this helps them build a strong bastion of sympathisers and volunteers in towns and remote villages. They resort to extorting and aborting essential personalities like Politicians, bureaucrats, police etc., and impose their demands. They hire vulnerable people with low literacy levels, unemployed or low income, particularly the tribal, who are unaware of the consequences of joining such forces, building up their cadre.

If we see the current status, recently, there was a decline in incidents related to LWE. From 2011 to 2021, there was a steady decline in violence though there were significant violent attacks in 2013, 2019 and 2020 where many civilians and security forces personnel were killed. A downward trend that started in 2011 will continue in 2021. It was a general 55% reduction in violence (1136-509) and a 63% reduction in LWE (from 397 to 147) deaths in 2021 compared to 2013. In comparison to 2020, in 2021, the decrease was 24% (665 to 509) in cases of violence and subsequent incidents of deaths of 20% (183-147) (MHA, 2022).

Government's Initiative

On October 19, 2006, the Ministry of Home Affairs established a division to address the Left-Wing Extremist insurgency effectively. This department is tasked with developing the capacity of countries to combat LWE through Home Ministry programs such as security-related expenditures, particular infrastructure schemes, special assistance and others. The LWE Division implements security-related programs to build capacity in countries affected by LWE. The department also monitors the LWE situation and the countermeasures implemented by the countries concerned. The LWE division coordinates the implementation of development plans for various ministries/departments. In LWE, the affected states of India. Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala are considered to be affected by LWE, although in varying degrees. Deployment of Central Armed Police Forces in LWE-affected states. Allocation of funds to CAPFs for strengthening infrastructure/helicopters/civic activities and others, reviewing the security situation in LWE-affected states and advising the relevant state governments, and helping state governments in initiatives to combat LWE in the form of funds. Coordinate the implementation of LWE programs by other central ministries within the LWE-affected districts.

The central government has taken many initiatives to improve the LWE areas. Some of the most critical programs being implemented include various development programs, such as an integrated action plan or additional central assistance for the creation of public infrastructure and services for LWE constituencies; Road Requirements Plan - I improve road connections in 34 LWE affected areas; Capacity Development in LWE 34 Districts Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojna Strengthened Police Stations to build and strengthen 400 Police Stations in affected states; and installing cell towers to improve communications. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways is implementing Road Requirements Plan I. The aim is to improve connectivity in 34 LWEs across nine states. The Ministry of Telecommunications is actively implementing systems to improve data connectivity between LWE-affected countries and the rest of the country. These efforts will help security forces improve communications to conduct counterinsurgency operations successfully. The technology was upgraded from 2G to 4G at the request of stakeholders, as creating a better access network also helped other essential services (MHA, 2006).

In security aspect reflecting the seriousness and urgency of its approach, the Ministry of Home Affairs has also set up a Multi-Disciplinary Group comprising officers from the Intelligence Bureau, Central Bureau of Investigation, Enforcement Directorate, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, NIA, Central Board of Direct Taxation, CRPF and the state police and their Special Branches, Criminal Investigation Department and other state units. The MHA utilises this group as a forum for evolving a well-coordinated approach for handling prolonged national security challenges, such as the LWE movement. It will strengthen agencies' capabilities to unearth various LWE conspiracies developed and executed in inter-state order with ramifications across the Maoist belt. This multi-agency approach will also proactively enable agencies to identify the sizeable financial network of LWE cadres who largely depend on 'Tendu Patta' commissions and other conventional transactions in the past. Today, they are involved in various dubious activities like extortion from private contractors of infrastructure projects, mining contractors, and transporters, owners of Medium and Small-Scale Enterprises, and to prosecute them promptly. (Garge, Security and Development: An Appraisal of the Red Corridor, 2019)

SAMADHAN is a doctrine developed by the Indian government to combat left-wing extremism (LWE). It was first introduced in 2017 as a comprehensive strategy to address the problem of LWE and to bring peace and development to the affected areas.

SAMADHAN is the acronym of

  • S for Smart Leadership

  • A for Aggressive Strategy

  • M for Motivation and Training

  • A for Actionable Intelligence

  • D for Dashboard-based Key Result Areas and Key Performance Indicators

  • H for Harnessing Technology

  • A for Action Plan for Each Theatre

  • N for No Access to Financing.


The SAMADHAN doctrine focuses on a multi-pronged approach, including security, development, and governance measures. It emphasises the need for an integrated approach that brings together various stakeholders, including the central and state governments, security forces, and civil society organisations, to address the root causes of LWE.

The security aspect of the SAMADHAN doctrine involves a targeted and intelligence-led approach to counter the LWE threat. This includes enhancing the capacity and capability of security forces, improving intelligence gathering and sharing, and launching coordinated operations against the LWE groups.

The development component of the doctrine focuses on addressing the socio-economic grievances of the local population in the affected areas. This includes providing basic amenities such as roads, water, and electricity, creating employment opportunities and promoting entrepreneurship.

The governance aspect of SAMADHAN focuses on strengthening local governance institutions and promoting greater participation of the local population in decision-making processes. This includes empowering local government bodies, promoting transparency and accountability, and ensuring that the benefits of development programs reach the intended beneficiaries. (Jha, 2017)


Left Wing Extremism (LWE) is a complex and persistent security challenge. There are several challenges involved in fighting LWE, some of which include the following:

  1. Identification of the Problem: One of the biggest challenges in combating LWE is identifying the problem. Often, the roots of LWE lie in deep-rooted socio-economic and political factors, and simply treating the symptoms of the problem may not be enough to eradicate it.

  2. Geographical Challenges: LWE is often concentrated in remote and inaccessible areas, making it difficult for security forces to operate effectively. The terrain and geography of these areas can also be challenging, making it easier for the extremists to hide and launch attacks.

  3. Coordination Challenges: LWE is a multi-faceted problem that requires coordination between centre and state government agencies, security forces, and other stakeholders. In many cases, there may be a need for coordination or even conflicting interests among different stakeholders.

  4. The radicalisation of youth: Those involved in LWE are not primarily motivated by ideology or revolutionary thought. Instead, their primary source of income is extortion. Many individuals are forced to join these groups as it is their only means of survival. Moreover, these organisations target and hire individuals who are vulnerable due to their low levels of literacy, unemployment, or low income, with a particular focus on tribal communities, thus increasing their ranks. This creates a cycle where youth recruitment into LWE is constantly reinforced.

  5. In the present situation, with a few rare exceptions, many senior police officers (IPS cadre) appointed to high-ranking positions within the central police forces need to gain experience in leading platoons or battalions. While these officers are trained to be competent superintendents and maintain law and order, these skills are only sometimes relevant when commanding and leading their men in insurgency operations. As a result, there have been casualties among armed personnel (Left Wing Extremism, 2021).

Overall, tackling LWE requires a comprehensive and coordinated approach involving security and development initiatives to address the root causes of the problem and ensure lasting peace and stability.


Several strategies can be employed to fight against left-wing extremism (LWE) in India.

  1. Development-oriented approach: Addressing the socio-economic issues that fuel LWE through targeted development initiatives, such as providing better infrastructure, education, and healthcare, can help reduce the appeal of extremist ideologies. According to a study by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, "Inadequate socio-economic development, especially in remote and tribal areas, is one of the main reasons for the spread of LWE Targeted development initiatives, combined with good governance, be effective in reducing LWE violence (Fighting Left Wing Extremism in India, 2019)."

  2. Intelligence-led operations: Effective intelligence gathering and analysis is critical to disrupting LWE networks and preventing attacks. The Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, recommends "intelligence-based targeted operations" to combat LWE (MHA, 2017).

  3. Community policing: Building trust and cooperation between law enforcement agencies and local communities can help gather intelligence and prevent LWE violence. A study by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies recommends "community policing as an effective strategy for countering LWE in India."

  4. Surrender and rehabilitation policy: Offering surrender and rehabilitation to LWE cadres who renounce violence can help reduce the strength of extremist groups. The Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, has issued guidelines for a "surrender and rehabilitation policy" for LWE cadres (MHA, 2017).

  5. Win People's Hearts – The government must focus on winning people's hearts. We cannot win against Naxal if we do not have local people's support. They are our most significant assets against Maoist.

Though recently, it has been seen that the incidents of LWE violence are declining in all affected areas. However, history suggests that similar trends were noticed in the past. From all the statistics and data provided by this paper, we can see that the LWE is a significant threat to India as it affects the development of this area, it affects the economy because all the affected areas are rich in natural resources, and it compromises the security of people living in those areas. We can say that this problem is of a large magnitude and still not fully controlled by the government and security forces, and it can be a more significant issue than terrorism in India.

Way Forward

In conclusion, the government should focus more on strengthening the counterinsurgency capabilities of central and state forces. States must lead in this campaign and provide quality equipment and specialised training to their police. To maintain an effective synergy in operations and the timely flow of actionable intelligence, the Centre and states establish coordinated operational centres. While doing so, there is a need to provide security to the citizens of these states and address their core issues of economic inequality, illiteracy, acute poverty, inefficiency and corruption at all levels of administration.


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About the Author:

Uma Shankar Sahu is currently working as a Research Associate at Indic Researchers Forum


The article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views of the Organisation.

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