The world’s largest democracy is under threat. India has been fighting against a violent far-left Naxalite insurgency, named after the Naxalbari area where it has originated, since 1967. Even though the situation has fluctuated greatly over the past decades, India is still incapable of eradicating its Marxist guerrillas. The situation has grown worse since the merger of the Peoples War Group (PWG), of Marxist-Leninist orientation, and the Maoist Communist Center (MCC) in September 2004, which led to the founding of the Communist Party of India (CPI). In 2014 the Communist Party of India Naxalbari, a Marxist-Leninist organization, joined the CPI, making it even stronger.
The CPI controls many areas in Eastern and Central India, in states such as Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal. Since these guerilla-controlled areas are contiguous, this region has become known as the “Red Corridor.”
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh named the insurgency as India’s biggest internal security threat. In 2009 the Indian government launched “Operation Green Hunt,” sending paramilitary troops to the affected states. Although the insurgency lost ground, it remains a potent force, security-wise and ideologically. This could be because India is still failing to provide decent living conditions for all its citizens. Indeed, a committee sponsored by the Indian government found in 2008 that a majority of the guerrilla fighters are dalits, formerly called “untouchables”, i.e. the lowest caste of the society.
On the one hand the lack of a promising future prompts many Indians into left wing extremism. On the other hand the inefficiency and corruption both of the Indian central government as well as that of the states’ governments are also factors here. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal “India’s internal security apparatus continues to suffer extreme susceptibility under the control of an ignorant, deeply compromised and corrupt political executive. The system lacks the capacities even to deal with current challenges and transient emergencies.”
Despite this advantage, Maoists have not won many military victories in the recent past. However, the threat is far from gone. Police officers and innocent civilians are still being killed or wounded in India today by communist insurgents. These attacks often employ illegal and barbaric tactics. The Maoists organize large incursions in order to completely dominate local areas and the people who live there. They don’t stop short of committing brutalities such as violent hijackings and beheadings.
Certain private sector solutions have already helped improve responsiveness to the conflict, such as a new app designed to give communities besieged by the Maoist guerrillas a platform to tell their countrymen what’s happening to them.
But the most important response has to come from competent governmental authorities if the situation is to be finally solved. Instead of preparing to deal Indian Maoism its final blow, Home Affairs Minister Rajnath Singh has decided to heavily reduce funds for state police forces, above all in the nine states affected by Maoist insurgents. How to explain this willingness to live alongside violent left wing terrorism? Former Indian Central Reserve Force Police chief Dilip Trivedi explained that poor states – like those along the Red Corridor – often misuse funds allocated by the central government, and so federal authorities are increasingly reluctant to invest in these troubled regions.
Amidst this muddle of self-interest, money-seeking, and violence, India’s democratic institutions and it’s 1.2 billion citizens continue to suffer. A sword of Damocles hangs over the head of the Republic of India, which must respond effectively and resoundingly to the communist threat within its own borders. If the CPI were someday to seize power in India, whether through elections or by armed force, some 36% of the world’s population would live under communist government (communist China already accounts for roughly 1/5 of global population). Let’s hope Narendra Modi and Indian state governors realize the imperative importance of avoiding that terrifying scenario.