The Georgetown Journal's Guide to Naxalism by Elena Malik

The Naxalite movement is not a new phenomenon in India; however, measures to address the threat have proven fairly successful. Naxalism, a militant communist ideology, has been a serious threat throughout India’s history. Naxalite groups launched the most deadly attack in their history in April of 2010, killing over seventy Indian police in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh. While they commonly refer to themselves as Maoists, the group’s name is derived from their place of origin: Naxalbarhi in West Bengal. They were declared an official terrorist organization in 1967 when they initiated their first violent attack. Since then, they have struggled to remain on India’s stage, gaining significant support in the early 1970s but losing momentum over the next decade.

Over the past few years, there has been a reemergence of Naxalite presence and the notorious group frequently appears in local news headlines. The Naxalite ideology has a strong appeal to lower-middle class Indians, reinforced by the lack of social mobility in the caste system and the high levels of economic disparity. In 2010, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh labeled Naxalism the biggest threat to Indian internal security.   Numerous government initiatives have been taken to minimize the group’s presence in Indian regions and have just begun to succeed this year. These included a 2009 Integrated Action Plan to develop infrastructure in communities with a large Naxalite presence. The idea was to foster internal, institutional resistance of Naxalite influence instead of relying on legal sanctions. By addressing severe gaps in infrastructure spending, this government-led effort to stabilize communities worked remarkably well. Furthermore, the ability of the Naxalites to launch coordinated attacks is hindered by the very lack of development that the Integrated Action Plan is working to address.  Finally, The Naxalites’ ability to coordinate attacks has been thwarted by India’s lack of homogeneity and uneven development. The group has struggled to overcome informational discrepancies and regional differences.

The increasing ability of the world’s largest democracy to deal with and a trans-regional, asymmetric threat indicates that India’s enforcement mechanisms have improved. Naxalite-related deaths and injuries have decreased by fifty percent from their peak.  Whether or not the group manages to reconsolidate despite increasing government awareness and resilience remains undecided.  While the government has succeeding in checking much of the dangers from Naxalite influence, communist ideologies remain influential in much of the country. The potential for resurgence and continued conflict remains.

Elena Malik is a sophomore in the SFS. She is an editorial assistant for the View from the Ground.