By Bertil Lintner
India’s Maoist insurgents have suffered some setbacks recently, but remain a significant security problem, especially in the country’s tribal heartland, according to the Indian website South Asia Intelligence Review (SATP).
At least 15 insurgents from the Communist Party of India (Maoist), or CPI (M), were killed and four captured alive in Sukma district in the state of Chhattisgarh, a major Maoist stronghold, on August 6.
Among those arrested in the encounter was Madkami Deva, a local Maoist leader who carried a bounty of 500,000 Indian rupees (US$7,200) on his head. Police also seized rifles, pistols and explosives from the insurgents.
Since Sukma district was formed in 2012, a total of 118 Maoists have been killed, while the Maoists killed 140 security forces personnel in the area during the same period. The CPI(M) is believed to have several thousand fighters, mainly in Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Telangana and parts of West Bengal.
Their main support base is among tribal people in those states who have long been neglected by state and central authorities. A protracted war between various bands of Maoists and India’s security forces has been running for the past 50 years. The Maoists are sometimes referred to as “Naxalites” after Naxalbari, a village in northern West Bengal, where local peasants staged a Maoist-inspired uprising in May 1967.
Although the CPI (M), which was formed in 2004 through a merger of two older Maoist groups, does not threaten any urban centers and is weaker now than it was a decade ago, when then-prime minister Manmohan Singh referred to it as “the single biggest internal security challenge” for India, it is, as the recent encounter shows, still a major problem.
According to the SATP, the Maoists have been able to “establish a disruptive dominance” in remote parts of central India where “they continue to demonstrate capacities to inflict significant harm on SF [the Security Forces] and civilians alike.”