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Maoist Conflict in India


Adivasi/indigenous politics; Development; India; Intractable conflict; Land rights; Left Wing-Extremism; Maoism; Security


After more than five decades of unrelenting activity, the Maoist conflict constitutes one of the most enduring insurgencies India has faced since independence. Originating from the Naxalite movement ignited by the peasant uprising sparked off in Naxalbari, West Bengal, in 1967, this low-intensity conflict has a long history of resilience despite being characterized by periodic phases of transformation, expansion, and retraction since its inception. While retaining firm ideological roots in Marxist-Leninist-Maoist thought, the Maoist conflict in India has evolved from a series of localized agrarian revolts erupted in the late 1960s and early 1970s into a widespread and heterogenous revolutionary movement. In its present form, the Maoist insurgency fights against the socio-economic inequalities generated by globalization and the dispossession of...

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  1. 1.

    The term dalit means “oppressed” in Hindi. It was coined by those communities which have been historically excluded from the caste system and discriminated against as untouchables in the Indian society. Even though untouchability was abolished by the Indian constitution in 1950 (art. 17), its practice and other forms of caste-base discrimination still persist nowadays. The majority of Dalits – 16.6% of the total population (Census of India, 2011) – still lack access to key resources (e.g. land) and continue to record low socio-economic indicators, especially in rural areas. These communities are officially recognized as Scheduled Castes (SC) by the Indian government, but they usually prefer to refer to themselves as Dalits. In the rest of this chapter, the word is not italicized in order to reflect its integration into common usage and vocabulary.

  2. 2.

    Adivasi is a term referred to the indigenous population residing in India. In Hindi, it means “the original inhabitants of the land”. The term adivasi is preferred by the representative civil society rather than the word ‘tribal’ and the administrative category of Scheduled Tribes (ST). Comprising approximately 8.6% of the total population of India (Census of India, 2011), Adivasis are spread across Central India and North Eastern India. The Maoists have their stronghold in these parts of India with maximum participation of Adivasis in their guerrilla army, liberated zones, and in their mid-level leadership. For the same reasons explained in relation to the use of the word dalit, the term adivasi and its variations are not italicized in this chapter.

  3. 3.

    Jantana Sarkar is the Gondi (the local language spoken by the Adivasis in Bastar) word for Revolutionary People’s Committee-RPC. In other parts of India, it is referred to as RPC; however, in DKZSC, the Maoist party decided to give it a local name. Every village council has its own RPC, and each RPC has its own constitution.

  4. 4.

    Red Corridor is a term that refers to the geographical spread of the Maoist movement across various states in India. The Red Corridor primarily looks at the spread and movement of Maoist party members (both combatants and other overground workers) across these districts and the dominance of the Maoist guerrillas.


Further Readings

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  • Bharadwaj, A. (2020). The death script: Dreams and delusions in naxal country. New Delhi: Fourth Estate.

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  • Bhukya, B. (2017). The roots of the periphery. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

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  • Gandhy, A. (2012). Scripting the change: Selected writings of Anuradha Gandhy. New Delhi: Daanish Books.

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  • Kerketta, J. (2018). Land of the roots. New Delhi: Bhartiya Jnanpith.

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  • Majumdar, A. (2011). The Tebhaga movement: Politics of peasant protest in Bengal 1946-1950. New Delhi: Aakar Books.

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  • Mukherjee, N. (2014). The lives of others. Gurgaon: Vintage Books. Random House India.

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  • Ray, R. (2012). The Maoists and their ideology. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

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  • Savyasaachi. (2018). Intractable conflicts in contemporary India: Narratives and social movements. Abingdon/Oxon: Routledge.

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  • Shah, A. (2018). Nightmarch: A journey into India’s naxal heartlands. London: Hurst & Co..

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  • Shah, A., & Jain, D. (2017). Naxalbari at its golden jubilee: Fifty recent books on the Maoist movement in India. Modern South Asian Studies, 51(4), 1165–1219.

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Correspondence to Vidushi Kaushik or Denise Ripamonti .

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Kaushik, V., Ripamonti, D. (2021). Maoist Conflict in India. In: The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Peace and Conflict Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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