India: A Receding Red In Chhattisgarh – Analysis


By Deepak Kumar Nayak

On October 20, 2023, two Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres were killed in an encounter with Security Forces (SFs) in a forest located under Koyalibeda Police Station limits in the Kanker District of Chhattisgarh. The bodies of the two slain Maoists, along with an INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) assault rifle, one 12-bore rifle, and other arms and ammunition, were recovered from the encounter site. The identities of the slain Maoists are yet to be confirmed. 

On June 11, 2023, a woman CPI-Maoist cadre, Sunita, a member of the ‘Rajnandgaon-Kanker Border (RKB) Division, who carried a reward of INR 500,000, was killed in a gun battle with SFs in the forest near Binagunda village under Chhotebethiya Police Station limits in Kanker District. The body of the slain woman Maoist clad in uniform, was recovered, along with a .303 rifle. 

In between, on June 21, 2023, SFs recovered the dead body of a Maoist, Maanu Dugga, from Kesokodi village under Koyalibeda Police Station limits in Kanker District. Dugga was an active member in the Koskode area and was allegedly killed by fellow cadres because of his objectionable behaviour with women in the organization, according to a purported Maoist pamphlet found near the body of the deceased. 

According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least four Maoists have been killed in Kanker District since the beginning of 2023 (data till October 29). During the corresponding period of 2022, no Maoist was killed. However, two Maoists were killed during the remaining days of 2022. Since March 6, 2000, when SATP started documenting Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-related violence across the country, Kanker District has recorded a total of 58 Naxalite (Left Wing Extremist) fatalities (data till October 29, 2023).

Significantly, one trooper lost his life fighting the Maoists, in the current year, so far (data till October 29, 2023), the same number as in the corresponding period of 2022. No further SF fatality was recorded in the remaining period of 2022. Since March 6, 2000, 64 SF personnel have been killed in such violence.  

Search operations and combing raids have resulted in the arrest of seven Maoists in the District in the current year (data till October 29, 2023). The last arrest was reported on October 29, 2020, when a woman CPI-Maoist cadre, Dashri Korsa alias Samita, carrying a reward of INR 500,000 on her head, was arrested from her native village, Gattakal, under Koyalibeda Police Station limits in Kanker District, when she had arrived there to visit her family. Korsa was allegedly involved in attacks on Police teams, setting fire to vehicles and machines in mining areas, and torturing villagers. Since March 6, 2000, 479 Naxalites have been arrested in the district.  

SF pressure has led to the surrender of two Maoists in the current year (data till October 29, 2023), in addition to three in the corresponding period of 2022, and no further surrender in the remaining period of 2022. Since March 6, 105 Naxalites have surrendered in the district.  

Meanwhile, civilian fatalities in Kanker have followed a cyclical trend over the years. One such fatality has been recorded in the current year (data till October 29, 2023). During the corresponding period of 2022, three civilians were killed. Another civilian was killed during the remaining period of 2022. At peak, a total of 14 fatalities in this category were recorded in 2009, while a low of one fatality was recorded in the district on four occasions in 2003, 2013, 2021, and 2023.

Other parameters of violence suggest a weakening Maoist influence. 

Total Maoist-linked incidents in the district stand at 19 in the current year, as against 19 in the corresponding period of 2022 as well. Another four incidents were recorded in the remaining period of 2022.  A total of 478 Maoist-linked incidents have been recorded in the district since 2000. A high of 78 Maoist-related incidents were recorded in 2014. 

Meanwhile, since March 6, 2000, Kanker has recorded 17 major incidents (each resulting in three or more fatalities), with none of these recorded in the current year (data till October 29, 2023). The last major incident was recorded on November 23, 2020, when three CPI-Maoist cadres, including a woman, were killed, while a trooper of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) was injured in an exchange of fire at Tadoki village in Kanker District. 

The Maoists have triggered at least 42 blasts, in which 52 persons were killed and another 52 sustained injuries in the district since March 6, 2000. A high of nine such incidents was recorded in 2007, followed by five in 2016, and four in 2006. The current year has already recorded four explosions so far, with one person killed and another six sustaining injuries. 

Maoists have executed 35 incidents of arson since March 6, 2000, in the district, of which a maximum of six incidents was recorded in 2022 and a low of one such incident in 2002, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2019, and 2020. Two such incidents have taken place in the current year, so far. 

Despite the very significant decline in Maoist activities, concerns persist. According to a June 2023 report, there is credible information about the presence of Maoist leaders belonging to the ‘RKB division’, a Medki Local Operation Squad (LOS) ‘commander’, and 20 to 25 Maoists in the eastern region of the Kotri River, near Amatola village, in the Binagunda, and Kalpar areas of the district. Indeed, on June 11, 2023, a combing operation was launched, and a woman Maoist was neutralised (mentioned above).

According to an August 21, 2023, reports, to garner public support and sympathy, and to woo the villagers, the Maoists have accused Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat political manipulation and making tribals fight among themselves in the name of religion. They have also accused former Kanker Member of Parliament (MP) Vikram Usendi of practicing vote bank politics with the tribals. 

Kanker district is spread over a geographical area of 5,285.01 square kilometres, of which around 705.28 square kilometres (13.34 per cent of its total area) is under dense forest cover. The uncongenial terrain – dense forests interspersed with swift flowing rivers and streams and hilly features – provide significant strategic advantage to the Maoists, and are a challenge for the SFs while in hot pursuit of the rebels. The district falls under the daunting Abujhmadh Forest region (which spreads over 3,900 square kilometres), and is part of the perilous ‘Bastar Division’ (comprising Bastar, Kanker, Kondagaon, Bijapur, Narayanpur, Dantewada and Sukma), still considered a major challenge for the state, and ranked as the worst LWE-affected region in the country. The geographical proximity with the other LWE-afflicted districts – Balod (Chhattisgarh) to the North; Rajnandgaon and Mohla-Manpur-Ambagarh Chowki (Chhattisgarh) to the North-west; Dhamtari (Chhattisgarh) to the east; Bastar (Chhattisgarh) to the South-east; Narayanpur (Chhattisgarh) to the south; and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra to the West, makes it a significant tactical location for the rebels to carry on their activities. 

Not surprisingly, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) has included Kanker, in its list, issued on June 19, 2021, of ‘25 Most Affected Districts’  from eight States across the country. Additionally, Kanker, along with six other Districts of Chhattisgarh (Bastar, Bijapur, Sukma, Dantewada, Narayanpur, and Rajnandgaon), is also included among the 70 Naxal-affected Districts in 10 States across India, covered under the Centre’s Security Related Expenditure (SRE) scheme, which funds focused operations against the extremists. 

The Maoists reverses are quite visible in their erstwhile areas of dominance. However, in view of their continuous efforts to reclaim their areas of earlier dominance, though with little current success, it remains necessary for the security establishment to consolidate SF gains and to check the Maoists’ ongoing activities in Kanker, as well as in the state at large.

  • 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).

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