While many western observers would point to violent secessionism in Kashmir as the direst threat to Indian national security, the government of India has identified the Maoist-inspired as its most significant security challenge. A vast swath of India, from West Bengal in the northeast to Andhra Pradesh in the south, has come under the influence of the Naxalites — the “Red Taliban” as they have been called. In recent years the Indian government has stepped-up its counter-insurgency initiatives in an attempt to contain and rollback the movement’s influence. In fact, New Delhi has even redeployed security forces from Kashmir to central and eastern India in response to this development.

Who are the Naxalites?

Taking its name from the 1967 peasant revolt in the West Bengal village of Naxalbari, the Naxalite movement is a left-wing guerrilla force that is seeking to overthrow the Indian government. Since the time of the Naxalbari revolt the movement has taken on various forms and its support has fluctuated from one decade to the next. Its most recent manifestation is the result of a 2004 decision by two Maoist groupings, the People’s War Group and the Maoist Communist Centre, to join forces to form the Communist Party of India (Maoist). This post-2004 incarnation of the Naxalite insurgency has been one of the most sustained — and perhaps the most lethal.