Left Wing Extremism

  • Left-wing extremists in India, as elsewhere, are known for resorting to violence in pursuance of their ideology of peoples’ revolutionary movement. In West Bengal, this movement was started in 1967 from Naxalbari.
  • The first flush of the Left Extremist movement in the Naxalbari region was effectively controlled without much bloodshed and within a relatively short span of time.
  • The movement spread beyond west Bengal and came to be known as Maoist movement since 2004 after the merger of various splinter groups into CPI (Maoist). This was followed by their increasing militarisation and simultaneous acquisition of sophisticated firearms and ammunitions.

Affected Areas

Naxalites operate in what is known as the “Red Corridor“ 106 districts across 10 states in India, mainly in the states of Odisha (5 affected districts), Jharkhand (14 affected districts), Bihar (5 affected districts), Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh (ten affected districts), Madhya Pradesh (8 affected districts),  Maharashtra (2 affected districts) and West Bengal (8 affected district).

Causes for Left Wing Extremism

Land Related Factors:

  • Evasion of land ceiling laws.
  • Existence of special land tenures (enjoying exemptions under ceiling laws).
  • Encroachment and occupation of Government and Community lands (even the waterbodies) by powerful sections of society.
  • Lack of title to public land cultivated by the landless poor.
  • Poor implementation of laws prohibiting transfer of tribal land to non-tribals in the Fifth Schedule areas.
  • Non-regularisation of traditional land rights.

Displacement and Forced Evictions:

  • Eviction from lands traditionally used by tribals.
  • Displacements caused by irrigation and power projects without adequate arrangements for rehabilitation.
  • Large scale land acquisition for ‘public purposes’ without appropriate compensation or rehabilitation. 

Livelihood Related Causes:

  • Lack of food security – corruption in the Public Distribution System (which is often non-functional).
  • Disruption of traditional occupations and lack of alternative work opportunities.
  • Deprivation of traditional rights in common property resources.

Social Exclusion:

  • Denial of dignity.
  • Continued practice, in some areas, of untouchability in various forms.
  • Poor implementation of special laws on prevention of atrocities, protection of civil rights and abolition of bonded labour etc.

Governance Related Factors:

  • Corruption and poor provision/non-provision of essential public services including primary health care and education.
  • Incompetent, ill-trained and poorly motivated public personnel who are mostly absent from their place of posting.
  • Misuse of powers by the police and violations of the norms of law.
  • Perversion of electoral politics and unsatisfactory working of local government institutions.

These causes are most glaring in forest areas predominantly inhabited by tribal populations who thus become the main instruments and victims of left extremist violence.

Sources of Funding for Naxalites:

  • Financial mobilisation by Naxalites is in the form of extortion from local people and from contractors executing various projects in the affected areas. Besides, funds are also raised through forest and mining operations.
  • The extensive contractor-transporter-extremist nexus and its links with illegal mining and collection of forest produce in the entire region affected by left extremism yields a huge volume of funds for the extremists. 

Current status of the Spread

  • The decrease in instances of LWE activities started from 2011 and has continued till date.
  • The number of districts affected by left-wing extremism (LWE) has declined sharply to 70 in 10 states for the first time in over three decades, with Bihar, Odisha and Jharkhand showing the biggest improvement.
  • Only 25 districts in eight states are now categorised as “most affected.
  • Overall, the incidents of LWE violence have reduced by 70% from an all-time high of 2,258 in 2009 to 665 in 2020. Similarly, the deaths of security forces and civilians have come down by 80% from all time high of 1,005 in 2010 to 183 in 2020.
  • The shrinkage of geographical spread of LWE influence is evident in reduced violence in the last six years (from 2015 to 2020), with 47% fewer incidents compared with the preceding 6 years (from 2009 to 2014).
  • The recruitment of Maoists has come down, their leadership is old, and the party ideology is missing among the young cadres due to which the pockets of their activities have been restricted enormously over the years. There is also better intelligence sharing between agencies, disruption of logistics chains like weapons, money and food items and they are not able to recruit cadres from any state other than Chhattisgarh.
  • Bihar, where the Maoists once enjoyed widespread support among the poor, has shed the highest (six) number of districts in the latest list, with only 10 districts now affected by LWE
  • Odisha, where the state government has a formidable anti-Naxal force, the Special Operations Group (SOG), districts affected by Maoism have come down from 15 to 10.
  • Jharkhand has shown significant improvement with only 16 districts now affected by LWE against 19.
  • Chhattisgarh, where the worst violence has been reported over the years, continues to have 14 affected districts.
  • There is no change in the LWE situation in Kerala and West Bengal, where three districts and one district, respectively, are affected by LWE; while Madhya Pradesh now has three affected districts as compared to two earlier.
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Government’s Approach and Action plan to curb LWE

The Government of India has adopted an integrated and holistic approach to deal with the Left-Wing Extremist (LWE) insurgency by simultaneously addressing the areas of security, development and promoting good governance. To achieve this, a National Policy and Action Plan has been put in place that adopts a multi-pronged strategy in the areas of security, development, ensuring rights & entitlements of Other Traditional Dwellers / Tribals etc with focused attention on 106 Districts in 10 States and particularly in 35 most affected LWE districts in 07 States. 

Specific Measures taken by Central government: ‘Police’ and ‘public order’ are state subjects. Central government, however, closely monitors situation and coordinates and supplements their efforts in several ways to deal with the LWE problem.

  • Ban on CPI (Maoist): This organisation is responsible for most incidents of violence/casualties.
  • Strengthening the Intelligence Mechanism: This includes intelligence sharing through Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) at the Central level and State Multi Agency Centre (SMAC) at the State level on 24×7 basis.
  • Better Inter-State coordination: The menace of Maoists is spread across various states. Thus, Government of India has taken a number of steps to improve Inter-State coordination through periodic Inter-State meetings and facilitating interactions between the bordering districts of LWE affected States.
  • Tackling the problem of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs): Majority of casualties incurred by the Security force are attributable to IEDs. The Ministry of Home Affairs has formulated an SOP on ‘Issues related to Explosives/IEDs/Landmines in Naxal Affected Areas’ and circulated to all stakeholders concerned for compliance.
  • Deployment of the Central Armed Police Forces
  • India reserve (IR)/Specialised India Reserve Battalion (SIRB): The Left-Wing Extremism affected states have been sanctioned India Reserve (IR) battalions mainly to strengthen security apparatus at their level and to enable the States to provide gainful employment to youth, particularly in the LWE affected areas.

Development related measures

Monitoring and Implementation of Flagship Programs:

(a) Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY)

(b) National Rural Health Mission (NRHM)

(c) Ashram School

(d) Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)

(e) Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA)

(f) National Rural Drinking Water Program (NRDWP)

(g) Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY)

(h) Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY)

(I) Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)

(j) Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Right) Act, 2006.

Other Measures

  • Effective Implementation of PESA Act and FRA.
  • Road Connectivity Project for LWE Affected Areas: Government has approved a namely Road Connectivity Project for Left Wing Extremism Affected Areas to improve the rural road connectivity in the worst LWE affected districts from security angle.
  • LWE Mobile Tower Project: To address connectivity issues in LWE.
  • Civic Action Program (CAP):Financial grants are allocated to Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) to undertake various Civic Action Programs in LWE affected areas.
  • Surrender and Rehabilitation Policy: Rehabilitation package includes an immediate grant of Rs. 2.5 lakh for higher ranked LWE cadres and Rs. 1.5 lakh for middle/lower rank LWE cadres to be kept in their names as Fixed deposit which may be withdrawn after completion of 3 years subject to good behaviour. They are also imparted training in a trade / vocation of their liking and paid a monthly stipend of `4000 for three years.
  • SAMADHAN Strategy:The solution to the LWE problem is not possible with any silver bullet. For this short term, medium term and long-term policies need to be formulated at different levels. Thus ‘SAMADHAN’ stands for:

S –    Smart Leadership

A –    Aggressive Strategy

M –   Motivation and Training

A –    Actionable Intelligence

D –    Dashboard Based KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and KRAs (Key Result Areas)

H –   Harnessing Technology

A –    Action plan for each Theatre

N –   No access to Financing

Suggestions for Addressing LWE

Left extremism feeds on persistent and serious shortcomings in the domain of general and development administration, resulting in the failure of the government to address the needs of the poor in areas pertaining to land, food, water and personal security, equity, ethnic/cultural identity etc. The ‘containment’ of the problem may inter alia require consideration of the following:

  • Most of the ‘participants’ in violence perpetrated under the banner of left extremist organisations are alienated sections of society rather than perpetrators of ‘high treason’ – they have to be treated as such.
  • A fortiori police action over a long period is counter-productive; it is likely to affect the innocent more than the extremists.
  • Negotiations have a definite ameliorative role under the circumstances; this is the experience the world over.
  • Faithful, fair, and just implementation of laws and programs for social justice will go a long way to remove the basic causes of resentment among aggrieved sections of society.

Sustained, professionally sound and sincere development initiatives suitable to local conditions along with democratic methods of conflict resolution have to be developed.

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