Socio-economic Inequality or Demographic Conditions: A Micro-level Analysis of Terrorism in Jharkhand

AuthorNabil Ouassini,Arvind Verma
Published date01 July 2018
Date01 July 2018
Subject MatterArticles
/tmp/tmp-170BOseenz5LjB/input Article
Socio-economic Inequality
Journal of Victimology
and Victim Justice
or Demographic
1(1) 63–84
2018 National Law
Conditions: A Micro-level
University Delhi
SAGE Publications
Analysis of Terrorism
DOI: 10.1177/2516606918765494
in Jharkhand
Nabil Ouassini1
Arvind Verma2

A popular perception is that left-wing extremism has its roots in the phenomenon
of socio-economic inequality. Yet, empirical work analysing this perception and
exploring the links between left-wing extremism and socio-economic deprivation
is limited. This article examines the relationship between socio-economic-
demographic indices and left-wing extremism in the state of Jharkhand in India.
The analysis tests the strength of the relationship linking left-wing terrorist
incidents that occurred between the years of 2005 and March of 2012 and
various socio-economic-demographic factors. The results suggest that the districts
that report high incidents of terrorist attacks are not only linked to socio-
economic inequality but also associated with socio-demographic conditions
concerning state access and the lack of penetration by security and government
agencies. In the conclusion, policy implications and future research for the state
of Jharkhand are suggested.
India, police, Naxalism, socio-economic, Jharkhand
Terrorism has been variously defined and sometimes even admired during the
long course of history.1 While terrorism from Islamic extremists continues to draw
the world’s attention, serious left-wing terrorism continues in some parts of India.
1 Assistant Professor, Prairie View A&M University, University Drive Prairie View, Texas.
2 Associate Professor, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.
Corresponding author:
Nabil Ouassini, Assistant Professor, Prairie View A&M University, 700 University Drive Prairie View,
Texas 77446, USA.
1 B Hoffman, Inside Terrorism (Revised Edition, Columbia University Press 2006).

Journal of Victimology and Victim Justice 1(1)
This has even been labelled as the greatest threat to India’s internal security by
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.2 The contemporary conflict dates back to the
1960s, when an incident in the small village of Naxalbari in the West Bengal
sparked the movement led by Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal who called for
an armed struggle against the upper classes and the government.3 The current
wave of violence began in the 1980s in the formation of the People’s War Group
(PWG) by Kondapalli Seetharamaiah. The PWG’s program consisted of a military
and cultural front that helped create an environment for the resurgence and spread
of Naxalite ideology. Through the songs, plays and poems of the revolutionary
writer Gummadi Vittal Rao or Gaddar, the people of the region were introduced
to the group’s radicalized ideas and consequent support. With the PWG’s redistri-
bution of captured land, many of the poor saw instantaneously what politicians
promised for years.
Meanwhile, another Naxalite organization called the Maoist Communist
Centre (MCC) was gaining strength through various acts of violence in Bihar.
The MCC adopted many of the strategies used by the PWG in a new conflict
between castes guised as class struggle. In 2004, the PWG and MCC unified,
becoming the Communist Party of India (CPI).4 Today, the CPI (Maoist) is one of
the foremost Naxalite groups waging war on the Indian government and has
grown in a disturbing manner. Naxalite violence has affected 192 districts in
16 different states.5 The Naxalite unification represents the movement’s renewed
commitment to adhere to a lengthy and protracted engagement, establishing a
countryside revolutionary zone, not for land or crops but rather for the seizure of
power that would gradually expand to cities and urban centres. Like the Naxalites
of the past, groups continue to target landlords, policemen and former members
who defected from the party.6 Naxalites have also targeted developmental activi-
ties by blowing up schools, railway stations, power lines and telephone towers.7
Naxalite tactics have become more refined and violent as the access to weapons
becomes easier and the use of weapons such as improvised explosive devices
increase. The access to these weapons has also helped fund the movement through
lucrative criminal activities such as drug and human trafficking, counterfeit
currency, kidnapping for ransom and extortion.8 Unfortunately, the factors which
2 International Institute for Security Studies, India’s Maoist Challenge (2010), available at http:// issues/volume-16-2010/september/indias-maoist-
challenge/ (last visited 1 April 2011).
3 A. Verma, Terrorist Victimization: Case Study from India, 25(1–2) Int. J. Comp. Appl. Crim.
Justice 183–197 (2001).
4 R.K. Kujur, Underdevelopment and the Naxal Movement (Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies:
Article 2937) (2009), available at (last visited
22 December 2017).
5 South Asia Terrorism Portal, Conflict Map, available at
india/database/conflictmap.htm (last visited 22 December 2017).
6 A. Verma, Policing in India: Response to Transnational Crime and Terrorism, in Police Practices in
Global Perspective (37–69) (J. Eterno & D.K. Das eds., 2010).
7 A. Verma, The Police and India’s Maoist Insurgency, in Cops and Condottieri: Policing Insurgencies
(309–313) (C. Christine Fair & S. Ganguly eds., 2014).
8 A. Kamgoj, Naxalism: India’s Biggest Security Challenge (Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies,
Article 1995) (2006), available at
Value=2009&military 1015&status=article&mod=b (last visited 1 April 2011).

Ouassini and Verma 65
first produced Naxalism are still prevalent today. The impoverished Red Corridor
continues to suffer from high levels of illiteracy, unemployment, poverty and
Our empirical research queries the link among left-wing extremism, socio-
economic and demographic factors. The data were collected from the South
Asian Terrorism Portal (SATP) and the Institute for Conflict Management (ICM).
The statistics confirm that Jharkhand remains a poor state yet there is a large
disparity in the number of attacks across Jharkhand’s 24 districts. Documented reports
of terrorist encounters and incidents within the state of Jharkhand in India from
2005 until March of 2012 were evaluated to identify the factors that contribute to
terrorist attacks and the disproportionate number of incidents among the districts.
There is a presumption that left-wing idealists take to arms in support of the under
classes because of the lack of development. This research empirically examines these
questions and attempts to analyse the strength of these assumed relationships.
Mao Zedong’s military/political strategy characterized by the ability of a small
revolutionary movement to draw support from the local population and entice the
enemy into the interior in order to engage in a long-term revolutionary conflict
continues to inspire left-wing struggles. Charu Mazaumdar aspired towards
similar goals in the Naxalite revolution by liberating ‘the rural areas first and then
having expanded the base areas—the centre of democratic power in rural areas—
advance towards countrywide victory through encircling and capturing the
cities’.9 Deblieck10 argues that the failure of Indian politicians to address issues of
inequality and poverty, and the ability of the Naxalites to take advantage of these
failures, is the primary reasons Maoist revolutionary ideas continue to prosper.
India’s economic growth has not benefited the underprivileged majority forcing
many to lose their land and migrate to cities to find work. The government has
also overlooked the oppressive practices perpetrated by those of the upper castes
and classes against the poor. Verma’s11 interviews with Naxalite sympathi zers for
example found cases of sexual abuse and exploitation in rural Bihar by powerful
landlords. These along with other negligence of injustices have increased the
Naxalite Maoist campaign. Here forward, the term Naxalite will be used inter-
changeably with the term Maoist as commonly done.
The merger of the PWG and the MCC into the CPI–Maoist largely represents
the current Naxalite movement. Unification added unparalleled strength to the
Naxalites as the ideological quarrels of the past appeared to resolve, the command
structure united, and membership increased.12 Generally, little is known about
the motivations and other detailed characteristics of Naxalite members due to the
difficulty of scholars to access and interview Naxalites. However, there are a
9 Sumanta Banerjee, Beyond Naxalbari, 41 Economic and political weekly, 3160 (2006).
10 S. DeBlieck, Why Mao? Maoist Insurgencies in India and Nepal, (9) Peace Confl. Dev. 1–39 (2006),
available at
11 Supra note 6.
12 Supra note 7.

Journal of Victimology and Victim Justice 1(1)
handful of studies that shed light on the Naxalites’ worldview. A study of Naxalite
life accounts by13 reveals common structures in their narrative interviews.
Findings suggest that the...

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