India: Ineffective ‘Revival’ In Maharashtra – Analysis


By Deepak Kumar Nayak

On February 19, 2024, during a search operation, Police recovered a pressure cooker bomb, weighing two kilograms, planted by Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres at Kotgul in the Bhamragarh tehsil (revenue unit) of Gadchiroli District. The explosive was buried in the ground in the forest, with the apparent intention of targeting the Security Forces (SFs).

On February 7, 2024, an encounter took place between the Maoists and the Police at the Narayanpur-Gadchiroli-Kanker junction, along the Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border, on the outskirts of Hiddur village in Gadchiroli District. While the Maoists managed to escape, the Police recovered wire bundles, Improvised Explosive Device (IED) batteries, detonators, hooks for claymore mines, and solar panels, from the site of the encounter. Police said the Maoists were camping there to target the newly opened Police outposts at Wangeturi and Gardewada. 

According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), in their constant fight against the Naxalites (Left-Wing Extremists, LWEs) the SFs had foiled Maoist designs and recovered arms and ammunition on six occasions in 2023, as against four such occasions in 2022. Such recoveries were made on 14 occasions in 2021, 11 in 2020 and 10 in 2019. Since March 6, 2000, when SATP started documenting data on LWE-linked violence across the country, such recoveries have been made on 152 occasions. 

Meanwhile, according to the SATP database, Maharashtra recorded 11 fatalities (five civilians and six Maoists) in Maoist-related violence in 2023, compared to seven fatalities (five civilians and two Maoists) in 2022. Though there was a 57.14 per cent spike in overall fatalities, reflecting a worrying development, a closer analysis of the numbers suggests that the situation on the ground has actually remained under control. No fatality has been recorded thus far in 2024 (data till February 25, 2024).

Significantly, without losing a single trooper, SFs, killed six Maoists in 2023. Similarly, in 2022, two Maoists were killed, though no SF fatality was recorded. SFs killed 49 Maoists in 2021, without losing any of their own personnel. Prior to 2021, the best ever SF: Maoist kill ratio, 1:25.5, favouring the SFs was recorded in 2018. Since March 6, 2000, the overall SF: Maoist kill ratio in the State has favoured the SFs at 1:1.92 (SFs killed: 170, Maoists killed: 327). The last SF fatality in the state, meanwhile, was recorded on August 14, 2020, when a Policeman was killed while another policeman was injured as a Maoists ‘action team’ fired at them in a market at Kothi village under Bhamragad tehsil (revenue unit) in Gadchiroli District. 

Though the number of civilian fatalities remained the same, at five, in both 2023 and 2022, and at four each in 2020 and 2021, these were well below the recent high of 19 recorded in 2019. A maximum of 36 fatalities in this category was recorded in 2011. A total of 201 civilians have been killed in the state since March 6, 2000. 

Geographically, all fatalities in 2023 were confined to Gadchiroli, the epicenter of Maoist violence in Maharashtra. In 2022 also, all fatalities were reported from Gadchiroli alone. Since March 6, 2000, of the total of 710 Maoist-linked fatalities in the state, Gadchiroli alone recorded 694 fatalities – 97.74 per cent – (192 civilians, 166 SF personnel, 324 Naxalites, and 12 fatalities in the unspecified category). The other districts that recorded fatalities were Gondia, with seven (five civilians and two SF personnel); Bhandara with three (one civilian and two SF personnel); Nagpur, two (one civilian and one Naxalite); and Aurangabad, one civilian. The exact location of another three fatalities (one civilian and two Maoists) remains unspecified. 

An analysis of overground and underground activities in Maharashtra confirms that the Maoists were active in only two districts in 2023. Only the Gadchiroli District fell in the ‘highly affected’ category, while Gondia was ‘marginally affected.’ In 2022, Gadchiroli was in the ‘moderately affected’ category and Gondia was marginally affected. Maharashtra has a total of 36 districts.

Meanwhile, SFs arrested seven Naxalites in 2023, in addition to 13 arrested in 2022, according to the SATP database. Since March 6, 2000, the total number of arrests stands at 481. Mounting SF pressure also yielded the surrender of five Naxalites in 2023, in addition to eight in 2022. Since March 6, 2000, there has been a total of 294 surrenders. In the current year, on January 21, 2024, Santosh Vasant Shelar alias Vishwa aliasPainter (33), a CPI-Maoist ‘deputy commander’, who disappeared from Pune in 2010, surrendered to the Pune Police in the Pune District. Shelar had been ill for the preceding few days and had come to Pune. Other parameters of violence also indicate a diminishing trend in Maoist activities in the State, as in all other Maoist-afflicted regions across the country. The State did not record any major incident (resulting in three or more fatalities) in 2023, as well as in 2022. The last major incident was recorded on May 1, 2019, when at least 15 SF personnel of the C-60 Force, the Maharashtra Police counter-insurgency commando unit, and one civilian driver, were killed in an ambush by CPI-Maoist cadres, who triggered an IED on Dadapur Road near Lendali Nullah in Jambhulkheda village under Kurkheda Police Station limits in Gadchiroli District.

The State did not record any incident of explosion in 2023, as well as in 2022. The last incident of explosion was recorded on May 1, 2019, in the ambush of the C-60 personnel at Jambhulkheda village. 

Incidents of arson carried out by the rebels fell from three in 2022 to one in 2023. Moreover, overall Maoist-linked incidents fell from 27 in 2022 to 21 in 2023. 

On February 17, 2024, Director General of Police (DGP) Rashmi Shukla claimed that Police camps have reached areas that were once considered Naxal strongholds in Gadchiroli and that the menace would ‘soon be eradicated with the support of citizens’. Speaking during her visit to Gardewada village, an area once deeply affected by LWE, where a Police post was set up on January 15, 2024, DGP Shukla thus said, 

Due to Naxal activities, this area was away from the mainstream. However, the Police department has removed their fear (sic) from the minds of the people by setting up a Police post in Gardewada. We will win the hearts of the people and with their support will eradicate the menace of Naxalism from here.

The state government was also reaching out to people from the region with various welfare schemes, DGP Shukla added. 

Earlier, on November 21, 2023, more than 2,000 SF personnel erected a ‘ballistics-proof’ Police Post at Wangeturi village in the Etapalli Taluka of Gadchiroli District. The Police Post covers 19 villages in the Etapalli Taluka and will help C-60 commandos conduct road-opening missions on foot, and will help avert ambushes or Maoist boobytraps while crossing into Maharashtra from the Chhattisgarh side during joint inter-state ‘sanitization’ operations. 

Despite promising security and developmental components, critical security gaps in capacities and deployment persist in the State. According to the latest Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) data, as of January 1, 2022, Maharashtra’s Police-population ratio, at 136.45 per 100,000, is significantly below the national average of 152.80, which itself remains substantially below the minimum of 222:100,000 regarded as desirable for ‘peacetime policing’. Further, the Police/Area Ratio (number of Policemen per 100 square kilometres) for Maharashtra is 55.43, as against the sanctioned strength of 75.71. The all-India ratio is 63.70, as against a sanction of 81.80 per 100 square kilometres. The sanctioned strength for the States’ Police is 232,965, but 170,570 personnel were in position, yielding a vacancy of 62,395. In addition, the sanctioned strength of the apex Indian Police Service (IPS) Officers in the State is 317, but just 276 officers were in position, leaving 41 posts vacant.

Significantly, reports indicate Maoist efforts to re-establish their influence and impact in their erstwhile areas of activity and dominance. 

According to a February 6, 2024, report, the Maoists were planning to carry out violent activities in five Maharashtra cities before the upcoming Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) elections. Speaking on the Maoist threat, Special Inspector General, anti-Naxal operations (Maharashtra) Sandeep Patil, thus claimed, 

  • Maoist United Front groups were working to create anger against the Government through farmers and students.
  • Confidential information on ‘urban Naxalites’ had been received. They had created their systems in the cities of Pune, Mumbai, Nagpur, Gondia and Nagpur. ‘Urban Naxalism’ was spreading in these cities. The activities of 54 organisations that support ‘Urban Naxalism’ were under watch.
  • Police had evidence that ‘Urban Naxalites’ were trying to create anti-Government sentiments in society and to carry out violent protests. 
  • Some youngsters from Pune slums were being sent to the forest to join the Naxalite movement. Santosh Selar, who was in ATS custody in Pune, had been sent to the forest for training by the Naxalites. ‘Urban Naxalites’ were recruiting such youth and sending them to the forest for training to carry out rebel activities.

The Maoists in Maharashtra are currently confined to Gadchiroli but are desperately trying to revive activities in Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Nagpur, and Gondia. The state and its forces cannot presume that the decline in intensity of violence and other activities reflects the destruction of the Maoists’ capacities to engage in violence. However, the present and relative pause provides opportunities to widen and strengthen intelligence networks and response capabilities, particularly within State Police Forces, which can serve to counteract the next wave of potentially escalating Maoist violence.

  • 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 *