India: Hitting Hard – Analysis


By Deepak Kumar Nayak

On April 6, 2024, three Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres were killed during an exchange of fire with Security Forces (SFs) in the Karriguta Forests of Pujari Kanker in the Bijapur District of Chhattisgarh. SFs recovered one AK47 rifle, one Light Machine Gun (LMG) and explosives from the encounter spot. The identities of the slain Maoists are yet to be ascertained. 

On April 5, 2024, one CPI-Maoist cadre was gunned down by SFs in the forest area near Kirandul in the Dantewada District of Chhattisgarh. During the search, SFs recovered the dead body of the Maoist, his weapon and explosives from the encounter site. 

On April 2, 2024, 13 CPI-Maoist cadres were killed in an encounter with security personnel in a forest near Lendra village under the Gangaloor Police Station limits of the Bijapur District of Chhattisgarh. The identity of the dead Maoists was yet to be ascertained, but prima facie, it appeared that they belonged to the Maoist’s PLGA (People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army) Company No. 2, a senior Police official disclosed. Police recovered weapons, including a Light Machine Gun (LMG), a .303 rifle, and a 12-bore gun, along with a substantial quantity of barrel grenade launchers, shells, and other arms and ammunition, from the site. 

On April 1, 2024, two CPI-Maoist cadres were killed in an encounter with security personnel in the Kerajhari Forest of the Balaghat District in Madhya Pradesh. The Police recovered the bodies of 38-year-old Maoist ‘divisional committee member (DCM)’ Sajanti aka Kranti and ‘area committee member (ACM)’ Raghu aka Sher Singh (54), both were wanted in multiple cases of murder, kidnapping, and arson, with bounty announcements by the Police in three states: Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Chhattisgarh.

Elsewhere on the same day, one CPI-Maoist cadre was killed in an encounter with SFs in the forest area near Tetemadgu village under Kistaram Police Station limits in the Sukma District of Chhattisgarh. The dead body of the Maoist and his weapons were recovered from the encounter site. The identity of the slain Maoist is yet to be ascertained. 

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 58 Naxalites [Left Wing Extremists, LWEs] have been killed by the SFs during the current year, 2024 (data till April 7). During the corresponding period of 2023, SFs had eliminated nine Naxalites. Through 2023, SFs killed 58 Naxalites, in addition to 67 killed in 2022. 

According to the SATP database, SFs arrested 401 Naxalites in 2023 as against 395 arrests in 2022. In 2024, as on April 7, the number of arrests stood at 92. Since March 6, 2000, according to SATP data, 16,364 Naxalites have been arrested (data till April 7, 2024). 

Through 2023, SFs recovered weapons and ammunition from the Maoists in 223 incidents, in addition to 193 such incidents of recovery in 2022. During the current year, as on April 7, 2024, the number of such incidents was 58. Since March 6, 2000, a total of 4,917 incidents of arms recovery are on record. 

Mounting pressure on the Naxalites has resulted in a large number of surrenders over the past few years. According to SATP data, at least 254 Naxalites surrender through 2023, in addition to 2,855 surrenders in 2022. During the current year, as on April 7, 2024, 42 surrenders have been recorded. Since March 6, 2000, 16,780 Naxalites have surrendered (data till April 7, 2024). 

Continuing SF successes on the ground further improved the overall security situation through 2023. The trend of declining overall fatalities, on year-on-year basis, in Left Wing Extremism-related violence, has been established since 2018, though a marginal reversal occurred in 2023 at around 11.11 per cent (from 135 in 2022 to 150 in 2023). According to SATP data, a total of 150 people (61 civilians, 31 SF personnel and 58 Naxalites) were killed in such violence through 2023, as against 135 fatalities (53 civilians, 15 SF personnel and 67 Naxalites) recorded in 2022. During the current year, as on April 7, 2024, the total number of such fatalities stood at 93 (22 civilians, 13 SF personnel and 58 Naxalites), as against 37 such fatalities (19 civilians, nine SF personnel and nine Naxalites) reported during the corresponding period of 2023.

According to SATP data, the number of civilian fatalities (61) recorded through 2023 was the third lowest in this category since 2000. Two other previous lows were recorded at 53 in 2022 and 58 in 2021. A third low of 61 was also recorded in 2020. The maximum number of civilians killed in such violence, 630, was in 2010.

Though the number of fatalities among SFs increased from 15 in 2022 to 31 in 2023, according to SATP data, the number of fatalities in 2023 was the second lowest in this category since 2000. A previous low of 15 was recorded in 2022. The maximum number of SFs killed in such violence, 319, was in 2009. 

The SF:Maoist kill ratio remained in favour of the SFs in 2023, at 1:1.87, improving the ratio in favour of the SFs in 2011, when it was at 1:1.53. In 2022, the ratio was at 1:4.46, surpassing the previous best of 1:4.03 in 2016. In 2010, the SF:Maoist kill ratio shifted to 1.01:1, favouring the Maoists. Also, in 2009 the ratio was at 1.01:1. In 2007, the ratio was at 1.2:1 favouring the Maoists. However, since March 6, 2000, the overall kill ratio has been in favour of the SFs (1:1.63). In the current year, the kill ratio remains in favour of the SFs at 1:4.46, so far (data till April 7, 2024). 

Other parameters of violence indicate that, despite sustained SF pressure, the Maoists but retain significant operational capabilities across the country. At least eight major incidents (each involving three or more fatalities) were recorded in 2023, compared to seven such incidents in 2022. There were 89 incidents of exchange of fire between SFs and Maoist in 2023, compared to 86 such incidents in 2022. Further, the Maoists orchestrated at least 62 incidents of Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blasts in 2023, compared to 32 such incidents in 2022. 

Moreover, the number of overall LWE-linked incidents of violence increased marginally from 602 in 2022 to 603 in 2023. In particular, incidents in which the Maoists killed civilians and SFs increased from 63 in 2022 to 77 in 2023.

Meanwhile, according to the SATP database, Maoist activities were reported from 12 States in 2023, in comparison to 10 States in 2022. (India has a total of 797 Districts in 29 States and nine Union Territories). The 12 affected States have a total of 83 Districts which recorded a Maoist presence. Of these, seven districts fell in the ‘highly affected’ category; 20 in the ‘moderately affected’ category; and 56 were ‘marginally affected’. By comparison in 2022, of 57 affected districts from 10 states, two districts fell in the ‘highly affected’ category, 28 in the ‘moderately affected’ category, and 27 were ‘marginally affected’.

However, in a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of the Indian Parliament) on February 7, 2024, Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai claimed that the resolute implementation of the “National Policy and Action Plan (NPAP) to address LWE” approved in 2015, resulted in a consistent decline in violence and constriction of the geographical spread of LWE influence. LWE-related violence and resultant deaths (Civilians + Security Forces) declined by 73 per cent from a high in 2010, by 90 per cent in 2022, and by 86 per cent in 2023. Further, Rai stated that the number of Police Stations reporting LWE-related violence had reduced significantly, from 465 Police Stations across 96 districts in 2010 to 176 Police Stations across 45 districts in 2022 and 171 Police Stations across 42 districts in 2023. 

Clearly, all major LWE-affected states across the country – see Andhra Pradesh’s Residual Vexations, Bihar’s Halted Menace, Chhattisgarh’s Persisting Disruptions, Jharkhand’s Risks amidst decline, Madhya Pradesh’s Enduring Risks, Maharashtra’s Ineffective ‘Revival’, Odisha’s Enduring challenges, and Telangana’s Sustained Dominance have recorded substantial improvement in the security situation in the regions affected by LWE activity.

Earlier, on January 21, 2024, the union home minister (UHM) Amit Shah, had asserted that the country would be free from the menace of Naxalism in the next three years, and directed states to expedite development activities in remote areas affected by the ultras. UHM Shah also directed the Security Forces (SFs) to financially choke the ultras and instructed officials to prepare a blueprint to end Naxalism. He also stressed the need for expediting development in Naxalite-affected areas, asserting that all welfare schemes of the central and state governments would have to be implemented in these areas with renewed vigour.

Meanwhile, on January 11, 2024, the Chhattisgarh government invited Maoists to hold unconditional talks, suggesting “video calls if they are reluctant to come for physical meetings”. Chhattisgarh deputy chief minister Vijay Sharma, who holds the state’s Home portfolio, stating that this would be a step towards restoring peace and stability in the Bastar region, thus observed,

We are prepared to provide Naxalites an online platform to express their grievances, ideas and desires. I am open to discussions with the young cadres any time, 24×7, without any conditions. I am available for any topic the Naxalites wish to discuss, but they must be willing to engage. If they regret their decision to join the outfit or wish to reintegrate with mainstream society, I extend my hand to them and urge them to lead a peaceful life and serve the country.

While holding out an olive branch, the Government made it clear that there would be no softening of stance. The Deputy Chief Minister thus warned, 

If they fail to grasp the importance of dialogue, they will have to pay for the pain they have inflicted on our people (‘dard ka hisaab hoga’). They must understand that peace talks cannot occur with guns and bullets. A well-ordered society is not governed by firearms. We want to discuss what they desire, why they carry weapons, why they mislead and trouble people, why they oppose progress in villages, and why they do not support the establishment of hospitals, schools, water facilities, and anganwadis.

Meanwhile, according to a March 21, 2024, media report, Chhattisgarh’s Deputy Chief Minister Vijay Sharma’s call for unconditional dialogue with Maoists prompted a response from the CPI-Maoist, with the rebels presenting certain preconditions and emphasizing the necessity of a conducive environment for talks to ensure the welfare and lasting peace of oppressed and exploited segments of society. In a letter, CPI-Maoist Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC) ‘spokesman’ Vikalp outlined several conditions before any agreement could be reached to engage in dialogue. These conditions included the cessation of atrocities and false encounters on tribals, halting militarization in tribal regions, withdrawing security forces, and annulling agreements with corporate entities. In a two-page letter dated March 15, 2024, Maoist spokesperson Vikalp declared that, if their demands were met, they would be ready to engage in dialogue via mobile phone calls. He noted, further,

We had previously responded to the invitation for talks, stating that our central agenda is none other than the overall development of the oppressed and harassed sections of society, including tribal, Dalit, Muslim, and minority communities, as well as farmers, women, and the middle class. Additionally, we advocate for equal pay for equal work based on gender equality and an end to state violence against women.

Vikalp also insisted on providing loan waivers for farmers, increasing agricultural subsidies, providing free irrigation and electricity, cancelling agreements with international companies, and implementing welfare schemes such as free education, housing, healthcare, and employment. 

The Maoists thus gave bandh (general shut down strike) calls on their whims. In their latest call on March 30, 2024, the Maoists called for a bandh in Bijapur and Sukma on April 3, 2024, to protest the killing of six Maoists in an encounter in the Bijapur District of Chhattisgarh on March 27, 2024, which the rebels claimed was a “fake encounter”. However, the bandh calls were peaceful. 

Rejecting the allegations of fake encounters as “old tactics” of the Maoists, Inspector General of Police (IGP), Bastar range, Sundarraj P., asserted, 

It is the typical modus operandi of Maoists to level allegations against the security forces to puncture the credibility of security forces. Maoists conveniently forget that they are responsible for brutal killings of hundreds and hundreds of innocent civilians. Just to distract the attention from their inhumane behaviour, they issue these kinds of statements. All concerned understand the reality that the Maoists are facing their extinction.

Earlier, on March 26, 2024, Mohan, the ‘secretary’ of the CPI-Maoist West Bastar Division Committee, had issued a press note which announced that Bijapur would remain closed on March 30. In the note the Maoist leader accused the Police of killing 15 tribals since January. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Government in Chhattisgarh has been accused of fake encounters, atrocities, and the eviction of tribals from forests and land, and denial of access to water resources. The Maoists warned transporters and businessmen that they would be responsible if they operated on March 30. However, the bandh passed without any disruptive activities. 

The Maoists issued nine Bandh calls in 2023 across the country, as against eight such calls in 2022. 

The Maoist movement has weakened, as the SFs now increasingly dominate areas long under LWE sway. Nevertheless, the capacities to sustain dominance remain limited. According to Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) data, the all-India Police-population ratio was 152.80 (as on January 1, 2022), in comparison to 152.51 per 100,000 on January 1, 2021. Some of the Maoists’ affected States have much worse police-population ratios: Bihar, at 75.16; Odisha at 122.59; and Maharashtra at 136.45. Even in States like Jharkhand, where the police-population ratio, at 162.73, exceeds the national average, it remains much lower than the 220/100,000 ratio regarded as desirable for ‘peacetime policing’.

Moreover, there were 504 (17.59 per cent) vacancies in the apex Indian Police Service (IPS) in the 12 affected States, considerably weakening executive direction of the Force. Further, huge vacancies persist in the total strength of the State Police forces, which have been increasingly used in the fight against the Naxalites: there were 417,784 vacant posts in the 12 affected States, as on January 1, 2022, against a sanctioned strength of 1,642,759 (actual strength: 1,224,965). Significantly, these constituted 72.3 per cent of the 595,105 vacant posts across India, as on January 1, 2022. Moreover, against a sanctioned strength of 324,654 in the CRPF, the lead counter-insurgency Force in the country, the actual strength stood at 309,544, a vacancy of 15,110 personnel. 

Stark deficits are visible in some of the worst afflicted States. According to BPR&D data, as on January 1, 2022, there were at least 22 Police Stations in Chhattisgarh, the worst Naxalism-affected State, which did not have a telephone. Similarly, the second worst affected State, Jharkhand, had 211 such Police Stations without telephone connections. The number of Police Stations without a vehicle in Jharkhand was 47, while 31 Police stations in the state hand no wireless/mobile phone.

The Maoists are certainly losing their impact across the country; however, the danger of resurgence remains alive. There is urgent need to build the necessary capacities to sustain, indeed, heighten pressure at this stage, in order to consolidate the gains of recent years.

  • Deepak Kumar Nayak
    Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management


SATP, or the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) publishes the South Asia Intelligence Review, and is a product of The Institute for Conflict Management, a non-Profit Society set up in 1997 in New Delhi, and which is committed to the continuous evaluation and resolution of problems of internal security in South Asia. The Institute was set up on the initiative of, and is presently headed by, its President, Mr. K.P.S. Gill, IPS (Retd).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *