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Comprehending Maoist Violence: Theoretical Perspectives: Ambikesh Kumar Tripathi [Research Article]

Comprehending Maoist Violence: Theoretical Perspectives

Ambikesh Kumar Tripathi

Assistant Professor

Department of Political Science

Government P.G. College, Dwarahat

Almora, Uttarakhand




This paper deals with various theories of understanding conflict and violence and attempts to analyse the Maoist violence in India. Popular theories are unable or partially able in explaining the Maoist violence. After a critical analysis of popular theories this paper provides an alternative approach to understand the Maoist violence phenomenon.


Key Words: Violence, Maoism, Greed, Grievance, Relative Deprivation, Structural Violence, Cultural Violence



There has been much research on why Maoist conflict occurred, what is the root causes of its persistence, and what could be effective antidote of Maoist violence, but because of multifarious reasons and lack of lucid understanding about Maoist conflict no one theory can claim that it thoroughly propounds the recurrence of this decades-old violence phenomenon. This part of chapter deals with theoretical perspectives which are basically foundations in our studying of Maoist violence. ‘The government of India uses several strategies and paradigms to tackle insurgencies and armed conflicts. The dominant strategy is based on the security paradigm, which consists of maintaining the status quo and putting down insurgencies with the use of the force to regain control and establish law and order along with development projects and welfare schemes like employment generation, lone waivers’[1] and attractive surrender policy. After brief discussion on various theoretical foundations that underpin our understanding of India’s biggest security challenge – the Maoist violence – I will discover the gaps and propose an alternative in broader contextualisation of human security perspective.       

Security Perspective:

Since the beginning of revolutionary Naxalite movement in India, the government approached and dealt with it as law-and-order problem. This perspective spots the Naxalites as ‘illegal settlers or trespassers’ who are disturbing the peaceful atmosphere. ‘Employing past histories of counter-insurgency experiences in other parts of the country, the Indian government has employed a series of law-and-order approaches during the four plus decades of attempting to combat the Naxalite movement. The first set of Indian Army and paramilitary counter-insurgency operations against the Naxalites between 1969 and 1972, combined with the national State of Emergency later in the decade, successfully suppressed the movement’[2] and by 1970s this movement came to an end for all its political purposes but this was achieved by the use of same tactics of terror which the Naxals do, and did not respect the human rights which are guaranteed under the law. Extra-constitutional means, such as; illegal detention, police torture, ‘encounters’ killings, and extrajudicial murder, were tactfully used by the state and ‘hinged on the often brutal repression of the peasants, during which many innocent people lost their lives’[3]. Though the Naxalbari Movement was end in body, its spirit became beacon for next generation peasant-tribal revolt in a new and more lethal flavour.

This security-centric understanding of the Maoist ‘‘problem,’’ is challenged by sections of the dissident left who see it as a socio-economic problem, arising from deprivation, loss of livelihood, lack of employment opportunities and abject poverty, given a neo-liberal state abdicating all welfare functions. They argue that the ‘‘Maoist threat’’ is used by the government as a ruse to justify the rise of the security centric state, with its repressive laws infringing genuine democratic voices and dissent[4]. The main failure of this approach was its firm belief in violence and taking Naxalism as only law-and-order problem while this has some social and economic dimensions. This approach spots the Naxals as lawbreaker and attempted to turn them into law-abiding people by use of the force. This perspective restricts the meaning of security to colonial definition of keeping peace and encompasses the extra-constitutional measures to ‘defend national interest’. This rhetorical phrase ‘to defend national interest’ provides legitimacy to the use of violence and in its shadow the state commits to massive human rights violation. In the first phase of counter-insurgency operation against the Naxals, many innocent tribal, indigenous people and even blue bloods lost their lives. The movement stopped but not for good.       

Socio-Economic Perspective:

            Apart from security perspective there are few more approaches to explain and understand the Maoists violence, socio-economic perspective is one of them. The basic argument of this perspective is, because of ‘equality does not equally access’ so there is ‘inequality among equals’ and such socio-economic inequality leads the insurgencies because such deficit creates frustration among deprived and people compel to be violent to get their due rights. K.S. Subramanian (2005), a retired Police officer, argues that there is serious need to redefine the national security discourse in regard of Naxalism. In order to this, he points out the 1969’s study report of Research and Policy (R&P) division of Union Home Ministry, ‘Causes and Nature of Current Agrarian Unrest’, that is warning the ‘green revolution’ could turn into ‘red revolution’ if appropriate land reform measures were not taken to ensure social justice[5]. Further he writes, the Naxalite movement, based on the interests of the rural poor, cannot be usefully regarded as an 'internal security' matter except perhaps in demented discourses on 'national security'[6].

Socio-economic backwardness, play key role in Maoist movement, is never in centre of policy analysis; while, how could the Maoist problem be tackled, without addressing these issues, from its very root. It is true Maoists operate in a vacuum created by the apathy of administration and democratic political institutions, whereas they are responsible to eliminate structural injustices and ensure the emancipation of those who are oppressed. In February 2009, the Indian central government announced a new nationwide initiative, to be called the ‘Integrated Action Plan’ (IAP) for broad, co-ordinated operations aimed at dealing with the Naxalite problem in all affected states, namely in Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal. This plan included funding for grass-roots economic development projects in Naxalite-affected areas, as well as increased special police funding for better containment and reduction of Maoist influence.

In August 2010, after the first full year of implementation of the national IAP program, Karnataka was removed from the list of Naxal-affected states. In July 2011, the number of Naxal-affected areas was reduced to 83 districts across nine states. In December 2011, the national government reported that the number of Naxalite related deaths and injuries nationwide had gone down by nearly 50% from 2010 levels. But, this approach has been partially succeed and not thoroughly, because of several reasons. Corruption, in implementation of welfare policies has played most significant role behind its little success. Another reason behind this is ‘absence of effective policing’. Though, the Maoists are indulged in violence phenomenon and they attack on the State machineries like police and paramilitary forces along with any ‘suspected’ informers, the State is required to use violence in tackling with them. However, the State seeks to attack the Maoists and as is the case often, a clear distinction between Maoists and common villager or forest dweller cannot be made. Thus, State’s security policy against Maoists often goes against the locals and this flush out entire efforts of winning hearts and mind in gutter. Thus, again the lack of security-centric approach rottenly affects the socio-economic perspective.   

Greed and Grievance Perspective: Paul Collier and Frances Stewart

            The greed and grievance approach also explain and analyze the questions such as: why conflict occurs?  Whether the ‘greed’ (Paul Collier) or ‘grievance’ (Frances Stewart) can be regarded as the most important cause of violent conflict? Though greed and grievance perspective to understand the conflict is not new, Plato has linked economic inequality with conflict. He states, ‘We maintain that if a state is to avoid the greatest plague of all—I mean civil war, though civil disintegration would be a better term—extreme poverty and wealth must not be allowed to arise in any section of the citizen-body, because both lead to both these disasters’[7]. In modern times, Paul Collier[8], Frances Stewart[9], David Keen[10], Jeffrey Sachs and Easterly, are most prominent scholar of this perspective. They have linked underdevelopment, poverty and conflict and said that specific ‘traps’ lead to conflicts. These traps are: poor nutrition, debilitating disease, terrible infrastructure and high fertility.

Collier’s contention that inequality does not predict conflict is based on measuring vertical inequality—that is, inequality between individuals or households in a society or in more general parlance, income inequality. He concludes that, inequality, whether measured in terms of income or landownership, has no effect on the risk of conflict. For Collier, dependence on natural resource extraction, poor governance and isolation from market[11] are the cause of conflict and therefore greed. Thus, according to Collier groups engaged in violent conflict are not primarily motivated by grievances (i.e. poverty, discrimination, inequality, dispossession etc), but by economic agendas. Whereas Stewart finds that horizontal inequalities —‘inequalities in economic, social or political dimensions or cultural status between culturally defined groups’— are multidimensional inequalities and very significant cause of conflict. So according to her, grievances are main driving force behind a violent conflict.

Does the greed perspective properly examine the contemporary Indian Maoist conflict? Is the Maoist conflict primarily greed based? Are they only loot – seeker? Inception of the Naxal movement was not solely greed based since the violent upsurge was against the exploitation of poor peasants by landlords; therefore it is grievance which led the Naxal conflict. Now while the state is coming with welfare policies and human face the Maoist rebels are becoming more violent instead of being calm. This is a point that urges to understand the contemporary Maoist violence in different prism.

Greed might drive Maoist conflict, but it is mainly in the context of capturable resource, such as forest products and timber. As if displacement due to mining, weak public institution, lack of adequate health and education facilities and poverty are contributing factors of Maoist conflict, only greed cannot be viewed as motive force while mining is uncapturable resource for them. ‘The role and nexus of local contractors, politicians, corporate interests and police that appropriate mineral and land resources and displace tribals is a major reason for armed conflicts. Here it is the greed of powerful contractors and functionaries that is primary’[12], rather the greed of rebellions. Addison et al. (2002) argued that it is not only ‘resource rents that cause conflict; grievances also play their part in fuelling conflict, as does poverty’[13].

Greed perspective does not take into account historical grievances which lead, India’s one of the highest intensity internal conflicts in recent times, the Maoist insurgency. Investigation into the causes of the today’s Maoist conflict would suggest that grievance rather than greed is the main motivating force. Again, greed perspective takes the insurgent’s violence into account but it does not focus on structural violence which impacts communities and compels them to unleash an armed conflict. Collier’s believe on the state’s reaction to rebellion will generate grievance by abuse from counter-insurgency.

Unlike collier, Francis Stewart (grievance aspect of conflict analysis) and her associates focus on conflict as a result of grievances and broaden the greed analysis to show that horizontal inequality is root cause of conflicts[14]. Horizontal inequality includes asset inequality, power inequality, and poverty, unequal access to public services, economic mismanagement, weak institutions and unequal access to public employment. Her arguments have much strength when she shows how political leaderships mobilise cultural differences when inequalities exist. She believes that growth in GDP and development can resolve the problem and supports market led development. For her horizontal inequalities are neglected dimension of development that should be taken into account in order to tackle conflict.  

The concept of ‘horizontal inequality[15] – ‘inequalities in economic, social or political dimensions or cultural status between culturally defined groups’— is highly relevant in explaining the Indian Maoist conflict and also has been widely accepted  for the development of backward regions in order to tackle the Maoist conflict in country. But like greed perspective, this too has several flaws that are following:

  • It is correct that the Maoist insurgency prone regions are highly backward and horizontal inequalities exist there but there are other regions where horizontal inequalities are, such as Bundelkhand, but there is no insurgency. Thus grievance perspective is unable to explain in similar circumstances in two poor regions, one may be entirely peaceful and another has an armed conflict.
  • Grievance perspective advocates that economic development can be effective antidote for armed conflict, but it is seen that economic development contributes in growth or renewal of an insurgency. There is huge difference in HDI ranking of Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh but both states have Maoist armed conflict. Development induced displacement is one of the major causes of Maoist conflict. Unregulated economic development leads to the exclusion of those who are already excluded.
  • As if Stewart suggests that by focusing on the neglected dimensions of development the state can effectively control the armed conflict but it has been seen rebellions do not want that the government diagnose the issues. With their anti – development plank they want to keep exploit poverty and underdevelopment of the region. In the Maoist’s context, they want their issue remain alive and therefore they can continue their armed violence.
  • Income inequality and poverty are not the only reason for violence. People are so used to poverty; it has been part of their life in developing countries like India that is not considered as a cause of Maoist or other armed conflict. Poverty[16], in a wider context of relative deprivation, may be cause of rebellion.

Thus, greed and grievance perspectives have some strength but they are partial and unable to analysis Indian Maoist conflict profoundly. In practice, greed and grievance are inextricably intertwined and in policy implication they cannot be distinguish. So, we need a dynamic model in which we consider not only the role of grievance in promoting greed but also the role of greed in promoting more grievances. To a large extent, both ‘greed’ and ‘grievance’ may stem from other.

Relative Deprivation Theory: Ted Robert Gurr

Relative deprivation model is also not a new concept and very much close to grievance perspective. Aristotle has linked the conflict with inequality among equals. He writes, ‘Inferiors revolt in order that they may be equal, and equals that they may be superior. Such is the state of mind which creates revolution[17]. ‘At least since Aristotle, theorists have believed that political discontent and its consequences—protest, instability, violence, revolution—depend not only on the absolute level of economic well-being, but also on the distribution of wealth’[18]. It is almost a universal assumption that an inequitable distribution of resources and wealth will provoke violent rebellion[19]. Though Aristotle revealed the link between deprivation and conflict, Ted Gurr, the most prominent proponent of relative deprivation theory of modern times, asserts that, there are several factors of ‘political violence’ and ‘political movement’, but dominant causal factor seems to be the subjective sense of ‘Relative Deprivation’ of the collectivities or the mass of people. The main argument of relative deprivation theory is that conflict is not merely a passing social event but an inseparable part of the human experience. Conflict has its own foundations in people’s mind. People or community who feel deprived of some good(s) or resource(s) tend to conflict. According to this approach, individuals who are lacking some good, service, or comfort are more likely to unleash an armed conflict to improve their material conditions.

Like greed and grievance theorists, proponents of this theory have not focused attention on violent conflict, per se, rather, they study episodes of political violence and revolution; thus their interest are more limited as like greed and grievance theorists. Ted Gurr (1970) himself states that his research is concerned with political violence – “all collective attacks within a political community against the political regime, its, actors ... or its policies”[20]. In his study of 114 countries, Gurr found relative deprivation and inequality as the major cause for the manifestation of conflict, and political violence. Gurr formulates his notion of relative deprivation by linking expectations with capabilities and states that violence is likely to develop in a society where is a wide spread relative deprivation, defined as ‘a perceived discrepancy between men’s value expectations and their value capabilities[21]. He continues, ‘Value expectations are goods and conditions of life to which people believe they are rightfully entitled’ and ‘value capabilities are the goods and conditions they are capable of attaining or maintaining’[22]. In other words, Gurr considered relative deprivation not only in terms of expectations but also in relation to perceived capabilities[23]. Relative deprivation may occur when expectations remain constant but capabilities decline; expectations increase but capabilities decline; and expectations increase while capabilities remain stable. He argues that increasing expectations without increase in level of capabilities result in relative deprivation which manifests by violence in society. Thus, according to Gurr, violence derives from high level of discontent caused from relative deprivation.

M.S.A. Rao (2000) states ‘the relative deprivation theory offers a more satisfactory explanation of the genesis of social movement for it is pivoted around conflict and cognitive change, motivating people and mobilising them around certain interests and issues’[24]. But this theory has some of its own limits that prove it is insufficient in understanding the Maoist conflict of India. He further writs, ‘a position of relative deprivation does not generate a conflict. The structural conditions of relative deprivation provide only the necessary conditions’[25]. It may be asked whether conflict necessarily result of negative conditions of relative deprivation. Do the conflict not a deliberate, organise and conscious effort of insurgents? Do the structural and cultural violence not contribute in arise a conflict?  Relative deprivation theory does not focus on underlying factors which leads a conflict, such as, resource constraint, mobilisation, displacement, people’s belief, etc. It completely overlooks the geographical terrain and the greed aspect of conflict. Though the main support base of Maoist movement, the tribal habitats of central India, are relatively deprived from rest of India, nevertheless it does not mean that they support Maoist conflict anymore. Again, being deprived is not always to be an insurgent, for instance, Dharavi of Mumbai, the second largest slum of the world, can be a good example of relative deprivation, but Mumbai has no violent conflict.           

Structural Violence and Cultural Violence: Johan Galtung

The concept of structural violence, associated with Johan Galtung, debunks the conventional understanding of violent conflict and explains violence as the result of massive social discrimination and injustices which are deeply embedded in social structure. Unlike the dominant understanding of violent conflict, which refers to conflict as result of law and order problem or greed and grievance, the concept of structural violence focuses on difference between actual and potential of human beings – ‘what he/she is and what he/she could have been’. Explaining his concept of structural violence, Galtung writes, ‘Violence is present when human beings are being influenced so that their actual somatic and mental realizations are below their potential realization’[26]. Violent conflict, thus, may conceptualise as the gap between potential and actual, between real and possible, between what is and what could have been. This gap is caused because of, Galtung says, uneven distribution of resources and power conditions. He includes poverty, alienation, oppression and social injustice as the cause and conditions of structural violence. Further he writes, ‘There may not be any person who directly harms another person in structure. The violence is built into the structure and shows up as unequal power and consequently as unequal life chances’[27].

Due to its most terrible consequences and difficulties in identifying the perpetrator, structural causes of violent conflict have been attracting attention of scholars now. Although structural violence (manifests in various forms including ethnicity, poverty, inequalities, and colonial legacy) is the most obscure and covert form of violence which is indirectly perpetrated on those who are at bottom in hierarchy through maintaining the unequal social order, it is (which includes intended/unintended denial of basic rights) typified by persistent inequality, poverty, starvation, lesser life–chances and so on. Most of researches reveal that violent conflict is often terrible subsequence of structural violence which is embedded in a society, poses multidimensional challenge to the survival of the people, causes lesser life–chance and results in violent conflict. Thus poverty, deprivation and impoverishment are ready makers of an unjust and violent social order. Hence, rather than actor-generated, ‘structural violence’ is structure-generated harm against the human beings. While it is responsibility of the state that eradicate all embedded injustices of the social structure, the 'structural violence', otherwise, shows up the failure of the responsibilities of democratic state. The responsibility to protect human’s from insecurities eventually rest on concerted efforts to promote sustainable human development which rests on quality education, adequate health facilities, food security, better environment, and protection to the culture of each community and the state is liable to do this. 

As for as the Indian Maoist conflict is concerned, it is the result of structural violence rooted into unequal, unjust and unrepresentative social structure. Low income, low education, low healthcare facilities, low life expectancy and low representation of India’s Dalits and Tribes are the main support base of the Maoists movement and give rise to the conflict. Widespread poverty, underdevelopment and biased developmental models inflict these wretched of the earth into the worst kind of invisible violence. Episodes of structural violence have built the fertile ground for Maoist rebellion. Hunger, starvation, malnutrition, ill health and untimely death provide a fertile ground for the growth of left wing extremism. Unless and until these underlying structural causes are addressed, Maoism cannot be defeated by state repression.

The idea of cultural violence is also associated with Johan Galtung which refers to ideologies, convictions, traditions and institutions of legitimation, which facilitates and legitimises direct or structural violence. Thus the notion of cultural violence is complimentary to structural violence. It not only erases the history and consciousness of the social origins of poverty, sickness, hunger, and premature death but also legitimise the other different forms of violence. Cultural violence, as Galtung explains, makes other forms of violence acceptable for society by making them appear just or at least less unjust. The fault lines in cultural traditions allow and even rationalise the violence in its structural forms. Dominant ethos of culture – religious beliefs, rituals, art, and language often legitimise the various forms of violence.    

Human Security Perspective:

Human security perspective is relatively new approach to analyze the causes of conflict and violence which asserts that tackling conflicts only through national security paradigm would be partial and less successful. It ‘combines various approaches, broadens them to include a rights-based approach and argues that looking at conflict through the lens of national security or simply underdevelopment is insufficient’[28] and emphasizes on people’s dignity, justice, rights, inclusion and human development. ‘Often, referred to as ‘people–centred security’ or ‘security with a human face’, the human security approach is defined in terms of two supposedly mutually–inclusive conceptual phrases: ‘freedom from fear’; and ‘freedom from want’. Safety is the hallmark of ‘freedom from fear’, while well–being is the goal of ‘freedom from want’[29]. Human security approach considers poverty and inequality as the root cause of individual/community vulnerability which results in violent conflict. Indeed, post-second world war conflict studies reveal that humanitarian crises, genocide and other violent conflicts have often been preceded by growing inequalities[30].

Is it possible to analyse the causes of Maoist conflict of India by taking the concept of human security as a framework for alternative explanations of conflict and violence? The two approaches of human security, freedom from fear and freedom from want, are closely associated with the Maoists conflict and able enough to explain it. Poverty, inequality, and deprivation are often real cause of Maoist conflict, but conversely it has been viewed within the traditional security discourse and state has attempted to manage this through the ideological framework of the state security. Thus, it is pertinent to look at this conflict through a human security framework.

In explaining the Maoist violence, in the conceptual framework of human security, the role of the State stands in cage by taking a note of sharp inequalities, abject poverty, mal-governance, poor access to education and healthcare facilities and unequal opportunities; it also deems the role of the Maoists in entire violence phenomenon. On one hand, by using violent means for their struggle Maoists have created fearful environment and on the other they oppose the government’s welfare schemes and destroy the schools, thus threatening the well–being of people, therefore threatening to the realisation of freedom from fear and freedom from want. Maoist-influenced areas are, undoubtedly, India’s most backward and underdeveloped regions where still, after almost seventy years of independence; the agencies of the state are almost absent. People of this region have seen the face of the state only in its police and forest-guards. Colonial and oppressive attitude of these state agencies have created a distance between state and indigenous people that has been fulfilled by the Maoists and they have provided justice in terms of share in forest product, self-respect and dignity to them. Thus the Maoist movement has been successfully able to make significant propaganda regarding the idea of 'freedom from want' for the poor and downtrodden section of central India. They have actively taken up the issues regarding land rights, minimum wages, forest rights, social equality, dignity, organised crime of upper caste and exploitation of the corporate class and local leaders. Research of Bhatia (2005) shows that after coming of the Naxalite movement significant improvement has been seen regarding labourers wage. She writes, ‘...prior to a wage struggle, the labourers were given approximately half paseri kacchi (1kg and 750 gms) of coarse rice with some lunch and sometimes also breakfast. There was no knowledge of an officially stipulated minimum wage. Today, in struggle areas, even though the wages are not uniform, they tend to be in the range of 3 to 3.5 kgs of grain per day. This increase has had a positive impact in the non-Naxalite villages too’[31]. Maoist movement has brought unity among the labourers as well as identity assertion among the tribes of central India and also fought for the rights of the poor and tribes over common and natural resources, which have made their life, at least little, but happy. Maoist movement has been fairly successful, especially in Bihar, in restoring dignity and honour among the Dalits[32] by fighting against Zamindari system. They are now more autonomous and assertive and claim equal status and rights in the villages. Labourers freely sell their labour to whomever they want. Dalit children go to school if their parents are willing[33]. All this has happened because of the Maoist movement. In south Bastar of Chhattisgarh, presence of Maoists has insured the proper rate of Tendu-leafs and other forest products; enabled them to access the justice and dignity; and liberated them from exploitation of local police and forest-guards. Thus, it could be say that Maoists has worked as guardian of the idea of ‘freedom from want’; but every coin has two sides and other side narrative is different and terrible.

Maoism has, undoubtedly, brought about some significant changes in the highly-unequal social-order in the regions of their influence which are basic for security and development of the people, but at the same time, however, it has violated all the basic principles of human rights by forcibly recruiting them for their object of armed conflict, endangering their physical safety and security, recruiting child soldiers, destroying schools and other public facilities, looting banks and treasuries, killing and occasional beheading of suspected informers, killings of political opponents and so on. They run a parallel justice system via their Jana Adalats, that delivers ‘Kangaroo court’ justice, in their strongholds which they call the ‘Liberated Zones’[34]. No doubt the Maoists, in some regions, have ensured payment of minimum wages but meanwhile they take a 5 per cent levy. A group of MNREGA workers have told me, during my field visit to Dantewada that ‘we may get killed if do not pay to Dada log – the Maoists’. Thereby, Maoists conflict has generated frighteningly adverse situations in their area of control that has been posing tremendous challenges to the idea of ‘freedom from fear’. Do the above listed actions of Maoists relate to the welfare of those poor people, for them they claim to fight? Answer would be ‘no’. Rather providing peace and prosperity, their actions are creating vulnerability and deprivation for the poorest section of society. For their anti-development plank and anti-state actions, in fact, they are using the pang and poverty of Adivasis. But the question is: do the Adivasi people not know the aims and objectives of the Maoists? If knows; how the Maoists are receiving supports from these people since decades? I will discuss about this below.

Scarcity in Richness Approach:

What Darling had written about India in 1925, ‘the most arresting fact about India is that her soil is rich and her people poor’[35], is still true. ‘India is a country of poor people. But it is not a poor country’[36]. It has vast amount of natural resources that can bring the highest degree of prosperity if properly distribute. But the India’s rich mining belt is also heartland of rebellion and hosts a significant threat to country’s ‘internal security’. The relationship between mining, displacement, and the Maoist conflict in India is causal, complex and diffuse and mutually reinforce to the scarcity of those whose life can be prosperous. ‘Scarcity in richness’ approach is an attempt to frame Maoist conflict–‘how do the developmental policies leave them on or even below to subsistence level whereas they should not be or how do the abundance of natural and mineral resources increase their want rather prosperity’–in a palatable manner. Answering these questions shed light on how India’s quest for maximum extraction of mineral resource affects the Maoist conflict through local land rights and displacement. My hypothesis – developmental policies of the state are adversely affecting the tribal’s life pattern and destroying their resources of livelihood and ultimately fuelling Maoist conflict – underpins ‘scarcity in richness’ perspective. I will put further relevant data, narrations and personal observations to form a comprehensive picture in favour of related perspective.    

As we know that, over 6,000 citizens have died since 2005 in the war between the Government of India and the CPI-Maoists, and hundreds of thousands more live in conflict zones. This ongoing war is due to a bitter contest for resources i.e. land, minerals, forest and water. In the process of profit-driven development the corporate interests are gaining access to resources while the poor, who are living on those land for the hundred years and their livelihood depends on that land and forest, are getting displaced. The Maoists attempt to recruit the displaced, perhaps illustrating why even though the war is active in over a dozen states of India, the most violent three states are not only some of the poorest regions of India, but also the heaviest areas of mining: Orissa, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkhand. Unemployment rate of local people is very high in these states while the outsiders have jobs here; from contractors to labourers are outsider, very few are local. ‘Unemployment and underemployment especially, amongst youth, is rampant’ [in these regions]. These youth become ready recruits for Maoist insurgency, or ‘followers of revolutionary ideologies that promise a new system of political power and entitlements’[37].

In 2005, when the campaign started under the name of Salwa Judum against Maoists, in the protection of Chhattisgarh Government, in Bastar, 644 villages were evacuated. ‘Between June 2005 and 2007, entire villages in (then undivided) Dantewada were forcibly taken to live in roadside settlements’[38]. A Muriya tribe Mangadu Ram, living in a camp since 10 years, has spoken to BBC Hindi, on June 6, 2015, that ‘I want to die in my village. Not here in Kasauli Camp’[39]. Almost 3000 families are living in Kasauli camp. Entire Red Corridor is full from such narratives. People who were freely lived in forest and depend on nature, are forced to stay in relief camps beside the roads. These are those people who were lived in that areas of India where are the abundant mineral resources. Their life should be prosperous; but are forced to living in abysmal conditions. This fuels the Maoist conflict. A report of Planning Commission admits that severe poverty, deprivation and exclusion make the tribal people feel a deep sense of alienation and give rise to sensory deprivation[40].   


[1] Chenoy, Anuradha M. & Kamal A. Mitra Chenoy (2010), Maoist and Other Armed Conflicts, Penguin Books India, New Delhi, Pp. 73-74

[2] Miklian, Jason (2014), Mining, Displacement and Conflict in Maoist India, PhD thesis, number 2014:27, Norwegian University of Life Science, Pp. 10-11, Thesis downloaded from Miklian’s page, accessed on 13-09-2016

[3] Oetken, Jennifer (2009), Counter-insurgency against Naxalites in India. In Sumit Ganguly and David P. Fidler (Eds.), India and Counter-insurgency: Lessons Learned. Routledge, London.

[4] Giri, Saroj (2009), The Maoist “Problem” and the Democratic Left in India, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol. 39, No. 03, August, 2009, Pp 463-474

[5] Subramanian, K S (2005), Naxalite Movement and Union Home Ministry, Economic & Political Weekly, Vol. 40, No. 08, February 2005, Pp 728-729

[6] Ibid

[7] Quoted from Christopher Cramer (October 2005), Inequality and Conflict: A Review of an Age Old Concern, Programme Paper, No. 11, UN Research Institute for Social Development, UN, New York, Pp. 1

[8] Collier, Paul (2000), Doing well out of war: an economic perspective, in Mats Berdal and David Malone (Ed), Greed and Grievance: Economic Agendas in Civil Wars, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner/International Peace Academy

[9] Stewart, Frances (2008) (Ed), Horizontal Inequalities and Conflict: Understanding Group Violence in Multiethnic Societies, Palgrave Macmillan, New York and Frances Stewart and Valpy Fitzgerald (2000) (Ed), War and Underdevelopment, 2 Vols, Oxford: Oxford University Press

[10]Keen, David (1994), The Benefits of Famine: A Political Economy of Famine and Relief in Southwestern Sudan, 1983–89, Princeton University Press, Princeton

[11] Chenoy, Anuradha M. & Kamal A. Mitra Chenoy (2010), Maoist and Other Armed Conflicts, Penguin Books, New Delhi, Pp. 10

[12] Chenoy, Anuradha M. & Kamal A. Mitra Chenoy (2010), Maoist and Other Armed Conflicts, Penguin Books, New Delhi, Pp. 14

[13] Addison, Tony and S. Mansoob Murshed (2002), Credibility and Reputation in Peace Making, Journal of Peace Research Vol. 39, Pp. 487–50.

[14] Chenoy, Anuradha M. & Kamal A. Mitra Chenoy (2010), Maoist and Other Armed Conflicts, Penguin Books, New Delhi, Pp. 12

[15] Stewart, Frances (2008) (Ed), Horizontal Inequalities and Conflict: Understanding Group Violence in Multiethnic Societies, Palgrave Macmillan, New York and Frances Stewart and Valpy Fitzgerald (2000) (Ed), War and Underdevelopment, 2 Vols, Oxford: Oxford University Press

[16] Poverty is a multidimensional concept involving lack or deprivation of resources and capabilities as well as choices, security, power and rights (e.g. civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights). One can be poor through a lack or deprivation of one or more of the above aspects. The leading cause of poverty is ‘inequality’, a measure of the relative distribution of the various aspects of poverty in and across populations, societies and nations that favours certain categories while depriving others.

[17] Aristotle, Politics, Book V, 1302a, 29

[18] Nagel, J. (1974), Inequality and Discontent: A Non-Linear Hypothesis, World Politics, Vol. 26, pp. 453–472.

[19] Cramer, Christopher (2005), Inequality and Conflict: A Review of an Age Old Concern, Programme Paper, No. 11, UN Research Institute for Social Development, UN, New York, October, 2005, Pp. 1

[20] Gurr, Ted (1970), Why Men Rebel, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, Pp. 3-4

[21] Ibid, Pp. 13

[22] Ibid, Pp. 13

[23] Rao, M.S.A. (2000), Conceptual Problems in the Study of Social Movements, in M.S.A. Rao (Ed.), Social Movements in India, Manohar Publishers, New Delhi, Pp. 4

[24] Ibid, Pp. 6

[25] Ibid, Pp. 5

[26] Galtung, J. (1969), Violence, Peace and Peace Research, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 6 (3), Pp. 167-191

[27] Ibid, Pp. 170-171

[28] Chenoy, Anuradha M. & Kamal A. Mitra Chenoy (2010), Maoist and Other Armed Conflicts, Penguin Books, New Delhi, Pp. 21

[29] Sahay, Gaurang R (2008): Naxalism, Caste-Based Militias and Human Security: Lesson from Bihar, Paper was presented in the 17th Biennial Conference of the Asian Studies Association of Australia, Melbourne, held on 1 – 3 July, 2008

[30] See Nafziger, E. Wayne and Juha Auvinen (2003), Economic Development, Inequality and War, Humanitarian Emergencies in Developing Countries, Palgrave MacMillan, New York

[31] Bhatia, Bela (2005), The Naxalite Movement in Central Bihar, Economic and Political Weekly, April 9, 2005, Pp. 1542

[32] Kunnath, George J. (2012), Rebels from the Mud Houses: Dalits and the Making of the Maoist Revolution in Bihar, Social Science Press, New Delhi 

[33] Sahay, Gaurang R (2008): Naxalism, Caste-Based Militias and Human Security: Lesson from Bihar, Paper was presented in the 17th Biennial Conference of the Asian Studies Association of Australia, Melbourne, held on 1 – 3 July, 2008

[34] Ibid

[35] Darling, M.L. (1925), The Punjab Peasant in Prosperity and Debt, Oxford University Press, London, Pp. 73

[36] Dutt, R. Palme (1947), India To-Day, People’s Publishing House, New Delhi, Pp. 21

[37] Chenoy, Anuradha M. & Kamal A. Mitra Chenoy (2010), Maoist and Other Armed Conflicts, Penguin Books, New Delhi, Pp. 116

[38] Sundar, Nandini (2016), The Burning Forest: India’s War in Bastar, Juggernaut Books, New Delhi, Pp. 17

[39]  (Accessed on 08-05-2017)

[40] Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas (April 2008), Report of an Expert Group of the Planning Commission, GoI