Forty years after their first insurrection, the Maoist Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) or “Naxalites” controls large swaths of the country.
Naxalism (as this movement is referred to in India, after the district where it originated in 1967) is a serious menace in states stretching from the Nepal border through the most backward states of north-central India – from Bihar to Jharkand, Chhattisgarh and parts of Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.
Summoning ministers of six affected states to Delhi last week to discuss the problem, the ever-realistic Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared that Naxalism was the “single biggest security challenge ever faced by our country.”
Singh was not indulging in hyperbole. In the first three months of this year at least 235 people were killed in actions by or against Naxalites.
According to a former senior official of the Research and Analysis Wing, Indian’s intelligence agency, some 20,000 Naxalites now have arms and are an important factor in states comprising 20 percent of India’s population. There is no doubt now that the extent of Maoist success in Nepal has directly strengthened and emboldened the Naxalites, who can also claim to deliver votes in some rural areas and thus become a factor in state politics.