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Maoist insurgency to remain significant internal security risk in central India despite growing security offensive – India Analysis

Executive Summary:

  • On April 3, dozens were killed as Maoist militants ambushed a contingent of security forces in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region in the most deadly attack since 2017, underscoring continued tactical capabilities despite leadership losses and ceding significant territory in recent years.
  • The latest ambush highlighted the authorities’ flawed intelligence gathering and limited operational competencies in Maoist strongholds, largely due to their lack of knowledge of the terrain, compounded by support from local tribes for Maoist elements.
  • Going forward, insurgent attacks are expected to recur in central India, as Maoists make a concentrated effort to portray strength and bolster recruitment amid a tightening security grid in neighboring states that have forced cadres to retreat to Chhattisgarh.
  • Travel to Delhi and other major Indian cities can continue, while travelers are advised to maintain general vigilance for security risks associated with potential insurgent threats targeting government buildings, security installations, and large crowded public places.

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Current Situation:

  • On April 3, 22 soldiers were killed and 31 injured following an encounter with Maoist insurgents along the border between Sukma and Bijapur districts in Chhattisgarh’s southern Bastar region. Nearly 400 Maoists ambushed a joint contingent of forces conducting an anti-Maoist operation, leading to a three-hour encounter. Maoists in an official statement claimed that four of their members were killed in the clashes, contradicting the government’s earlier announcement that 12 Maoists were killed.
  • The attack came amid days of counterinsurgency operations in the region, with reports indicating that several teams of around 2,000 security personnel were deployed. Operations were ongoing following intelligence reports stating the presence of Maoist squads along with Madvi Hidma, the commander of the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) Battalion No. 1, who has been linked to major attacks since 2010. The latest intelligence suggested his location in the forests in Bijapur, along with a large number of Maoist cadres. The April 3 attack was reportedly orchestrated by Hidma.
  • This incident closely followed the first major Maoist attack in nearly a year, during which five security personnel were killed and 14 injured in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur district, on March 23.

Madvi Hidma


  • The left-wing extremist (LWE) movement is rooted in the violent rural community uprisings against landlords in West Bengal’s Naxalbari area in 1967. It has taken several forms over the years but gained momentum after two Maoist groups merged to establish the Communist Party of India (Maoists) [CPI (Maoists)] in 2004.
  • Under the banner of the CPI (Maoists), insurgents conducted violent attacks against security forces and state installations, which included low-intensity guerrilla ambushes and large-scale attacks. The violence has claimed the lives of thousands of security personnel and civilians over the years, with the insurgency being termed as the “single biggest internal-security challenge” by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. During its peak years, Maoists were active in more than 200 districts across more than 20 states in India.
  • The rebel movement has waned since 2010 due to a concentrated effort by security forces to crack down on LWE groups while simultaneously conducting on-ground development projects. As of 2020, there were 90 Maoist-affected districts in 11 states, with the 30 worst-affected districts largely concentrated in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, followed by Andra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, and Telangana. While incidents of violence have significantly reduced since 2004-2010, Maoists continue to carry out deadly attacks against the state apparatus, with several major ambushes recorded over the last decade.

Major Maoist attacks and death tolls in Chhattisgarh

Assessments & Forecast:

Maoists look to demonstrate continued capabilities despite operational setbacks 

  1. The Maoist attack on April 3 is highly notable given the significant number of casualties, making it the most deadly LWE encounter since the 2017 attack in Sukma. The latest plot appeared to be a calculated and well-planned ambush, with reports indicating that the insurgents carried out a “U-shaped” trap, wherein rebels lured the team of security personnel into flat land before firing at them from the surrounding high ground. These developments, coupled with the attack just weeks prior on March 23, suggest an effort by Maoists to project their continued operational capabilities.
  2. This was likely informed by the fact that LWE activities, which have been on a declining trend in recent years, were further hit by the strict nationwide lockdown imposed at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The movement restrictions that included strict controls at inter-district and inter-state borders served to constrict the Maoists’ supply chains for food, medicines, and other essential commodities, thereby, significantly hampering their capabilities. The insurgents reportedly also faced difficulties in procuring weapons from their arms factories in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, further impeding their capacity to conduct tactical offensives.
  3. The latest attacks are also notable as they were timed to coincide with the annual Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign (TCOC) from March to June, the core of the Maoists’ strategy, during which insurgents carry out recruitment drives and conduct major plots to showcase their tactical proficiency. This is relevant since there was reportedly a 40 percent decline in violence during the 2020 TCOC period as compared to the year prior. The alleged use of light machine guns (LMGs), IEDs, and crude rockets during the April 3 ambush also serves to display the Maoists’ capacities.


The latest attack highlights major lapses in counterinsurgency intelligence and operations in Maoist strongholds

  1. While the Chhattisgarh state government ruled out intelligence and operational failure as the reason behind the April 3 encounter, the details of the attack that dealt heavy casualties to security forces suggest otherwise. The information regarding the presence of Maoist commander Hidma and other cadres in the area was not incorrect but the ambush indicates that the intelligence was flawed in terms of the intention and scale of the Maoist presence in the region, resulting in security forces walking into a trap.
  2. There are two main reasons behind the recent tactical failure. Firstly, security forces in Chhattisgarh are largely dependent on human intelligence to gather information about Maoists. This serves as a major problem in Bastar, a Maoist bastion, where the insurgents have strong support from the locals who keep them informed of security movements. This was also evidenced by the fact that Maoists allegedly vacated locals from the villages near the encounter zone days before the ambush to prevent civilian casualties. Such acts are liable to heighten goodwill towards the rebels among the villagers in Bastar, ensuring future support and possibly boosting recruitment.
  3. Secondly, the Maoist rebels have an undisputed advantage vis-a-vis knowledge of the terrain since the cadres are largely composed of individuals from the area, including Hidma, who was reportedly born in Sukma. In this context, the deployment of 2,000 security personnel in the weeks before the attack was a major oversight in the counterinsurgency operation. The large number of troops moving in the Maoist stronghold lands was a highly overt operation , underscoring the difficulty in formulating an effective strategy in countering the insurgents in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region.
  4. FORECASTUnless security forces recalibrate their strategy and intelligence gathering techniques in the stronghold of Bastar, the Maoist insurgency is expected to remain a major threat in central India. Instead of conducting large operations, smaller special operations units are more likely to succeed in infiltrating the stronghold and carrying out targeted operations against key Maoist leaders. This is especially given reports that top leaders like Hidma are reportedly protected by a multi-layered security cover, making it particularly hard to breach with direct offensives. Authorities are also seeing problems due to their inability to adequately adopt a more population-focused approach, which includes development strategies in the tribal regions, to sway local sentiment away from the Maoists.

Maoist insurgency - Affected states in India


Insurgency attacks to sustain for foreseeable future despite losing ground in recent years 

  1. The latest developments suggest that the Maoist insurgency is not in its last stages despite the steady decline in LWE-related incidents of violence since 2010. While the group has ceded significant territory and lost several leaders in recent years, the outfit remains a major security threat in central India. That said, the recent incident does not signify that the outfit is regaining dominance or expanding into lost territories; rather, it points to a concerted effort to portray strength and bolster recruitment in the Maoist bastion amid a tightening security grid in neighboring states that has forced cadres to retreat to strongholds in Chhattisgarh.
  2. FORECAST: In this light, LWE attacks are expected to continue for the foreseeable future, especially in Maoists’ core areas where they have the capacity to conduct high-visibility attacks. This is particularly given the increasingly assertive tactics adopted under Basavaraj, the former head of the outfit’s Central Military Commission (CMC), who was appointed as chief of the CPI (Maoists) in 2018. His leadership reinvigorated violent plots by the group through large-scale IED-based attacks and multi-pronged ambushes on security forces as well as high-value targets, such as prominent politicians. Unconfirmed reports also indicate that Hidma is set to head the CMC, which oversees all guerrilla activities in India, increasing the risk of attacks in restive regions.
  3. FORECAST: While insurgents are expected to predominantly attack security operatives and the state apparatus, civilians residing or traveling in Maoist-affected regions can be potential targets, particularly if they are suspected of being police informants or of holding links to the government. Maoists may also target infrastructure projects as well as local industries and businesses in a bid to extort money. In the near term, security forces are liable to increase the frequency and intensity of anti-Maoist operations in Chhattisgarh, as well as in other Maoist-affected regions in the “Red Corridor”, which mainly encompasses parts of Andhra Pradesh Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Odisha, and Telangana. Such measures may include intensified combing operations and the deployment of additional security personnel, increasing the risk of clashes.


  1. Those operating or residing in Chhattisgarh over the coming months are advised to maintain heightened vigilance, particularly in rural districts, due to the risk of Maoist attacks and the threat of collateral damage from increased security operations.
  2. Travel to Delhi and other major Indian cities can continue, while travelers are advised to maintain general vigilance for security risks associated with potential insurgent threats targeting government buildings, security installations, and large crowded public places.
  3. We advise against all nonessential travel to rural and tribal areas of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Odisha states given their restricted travel status with the government. Travel to urban areas, such as Bhubaneshwar, can continue while maintaining heightened vigilance.
  4. It is advised to consult with India’s Bureau of Immigration for a full list of restricted areas within India which travelers must obtain special permission to visit.
  5. Given the continued militant threat in India, maintain heightened vigilance for suspicious individuals and unattended baggage, particularly in public places including major hotels, government installations, transport hubs, markets, restaurants, entertainment venues, and places of worship.

How to provide the correct security training program for your personnel

Corporations and organizations operating in an ever-changing global environment have learned not to underestimate the security threats to personnel and business continuity. These numerous threats can range from petty crime and safety oversights in the workplace to militancy related attacks and civil unrest. No matter the scale, each security or safety breach is one that may have resonating impacts on your clients, on operations and on the people you employ.

For this reason, maintaining your duty of care by properly training staff is critical to mitigating risks before they happen, and to minimize the impact during and after they occur. Whether employing an external company to conduct your corporate security training, or managing training internally, the most critical mistake most organizations make is failing to create a customized training that fits a variety of relevant factors.

Who is the Security Training intended for?

Although your security staff may face the brunt of the responsibility ensuring the work environment and personnel safety, all employees and staff regardless of their positions have a part to play in their personal security as well as the handling of risks during an extreme event. However, general staff must be trained differently than security personnel.

General Staff and Employees

When training employees to support security efforts, one has to understand that the training’s main purpose is to improve employee security awareness rather than physically train participants to counteract threats. Trained employees should be equipped to respond to questions such as: What should I do in case of an emergency such as an active shooter? How can I recognize suspicious behavior and what protocol should I follow? Meaning it is all about information, scenarios, and how to address them. General staff must be trained in understanding the unique dangers that can impact them and how they are expected to respond to safeguard their own security until such threats have been neutralized.

Security Personnel

Security training programs for professional security personnel should focus on crisis management and be far more detailed, down to exact operational procedures and specific threat scenarios. Clearly defining the security team’s job definition, action/reaction scenarios and expectations, routine and emergency protocols, incident handling, etc. will create a cohesive team working to eliminate threats. Security personnel training should include modules on topics such as:

  • Suspicious behavioral indicators
  • Relevant SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures)
  • Crisis support (ransom, hostage, kidnapping handling awareness)
  • Action/reaction scenario training (active shooter, terrorism, public disorder, etc.)
  • Weapons, Explosives and Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) recognition

What are the Relevant Security Threats in Your Industry?

Once you have addressed the specifics of who you intend to train and how, you then can create clear threat definitions. Taking into consideration the industry in which your company does business will help determine what kind of risks your company is most exposed to. You can then tailor your training approach to primarily focus on the more likely threat scenarios and prepare accordingly.

The Hospitality Industry – Open Doors, Open Access

Welcome! The hospitality industry depends on public access without interferences, and is open to all. Types of businesses that are available to the general public such as hotels, restaurants, cinemas, etc. are more exposed than others due to the relative ease of entry without detection or observation. This type of business suffers from a wide set of risks, from common street criminals to carefully planned terror attacks, and often requires a broader set of security training considerations than other more private industries. Employees must be trained on risk management and situational awareness in order to understand how to assess situations and make decisions under stress.

Such places often deal with high foot traffic, and unlike other industries, the customer experience is paramount and must be considered in the training plan of security personnel and staff alike. Such businesses must prepare security personnel to deal with large crowds and respond to versatile scenarios to protect clients – all while maintaining the comfort levels and goals of the hospitality standard.

The Transportation Industry – High Speed, High Risk

All Aboard! Like the hospitality industry, companies that operate in the transportation sector (be it air, maritime, or ground transport) face large surges in traffic and must consider the customer experience. However, unlike the leisurely pace of the hospitality industry, transportation companies face the factor of space limitations and time pressure. With the industry dependent on punctual departures and arrivals, personnel must be trained on conduct at checkpoints and counter surveillance to quickly and efficiently spot unusual behavior without causing delays.

Not only does your staff face the challenges of time constraints, they must often operate in the small confined spaces of airplane cabins, train cars, etc. All staff must identify and respond to risks given a small window of time and compact environments. Given the space limitations, staff and security personnel must understand the impact an emergency event or potential crime may have on passengers and surroundings. Being able to contain an incident can be critical in minimizing damage and injuries. These considerations as well as interpreting situations involving different populations with various cultures, socio-economic statuses and the occasional language barrier, require personnel to be well trained in cross cultural awareness and tactical preparations to understand a variety of diverse situations and how to respond to each.

The Infrastructure Industry – Plenty of Space, Plenty of Weaknesses

Under construction! Infrastructure projects are usually set on large sites and in less central, and often hostile, locations. These isolated locations with their large perimeters make it harder to monitor the entire area, allowing potential criminals, kidnappers, politically motivated attackers, and terrorists relatively easy access. The passing through of day workers, vendors, and sub-contractors without proper vetting makes it hard to identify unwanted visitors. Furthermore, the lack of technological or physical security infrastructure makes surveillance and regulation that much harder. General staff, often unaware of sophisticated security protocol must be given clear guidelines and routines to follow to enhance the worksite’s security. Companies must conduct penetration and stress testing followed by proper training for staff and security personnel to understand the constraints and weaknesses of the work site in order to combat these security weaknesses.

Often, a risk in this industry is public opinion when projects become controversial in terms of the environment, sensitive cultural conflicts, and more. In these cases, establishments are likely to be targeted by radical groups. Extremists might not always attempt to harm employees of those industries, but will try to sabotage equipment, block access to the facility, or disrupt its ongoing activity.  Employees and the security team must be trained on action/reaction scenarios to understand the political nature of the project and the threats it insights. Additionally, a threat assessment must be reviewed in order for security to understand possible illegal breaches into the perimeter and buildings of the site.

The Corporate Sector – Efficient Procedures, Efficient Costs

Pleasure doing business! Corporate offices are a relatively more secure environment in comparison with those mentioned above. They are generally set in smaller premises, traffic is pretty consistent and predictable, and the relevant risks are fewer, making such threats as petty crime less of a concern for staff and security personnel.

On the other hand, businesses in this type of industry tend to adhere to consistent procedures and make it easier for terrorists or politically motivated attackers to predict activity and routines. Additionally, the security in such places is usually considered a financial burden in the eyes of senior management making it hard to justify large amounts of security expenditures. Thus, proper training becomes paramount in the efficiency and productivity of a successful security program for corporate offices, and to ensure security teams do not inhibit the work process of the rest of the company. The use of Operational Expectation Papers with different command and control measures, relevant threat scenarios, and a compilation of simulations portfolio will create efficient clearly defined security procedure to maximize efficiency and minimize chaos.

Threats to Your Business – Be Aware, Be Prepared

Understanding security inside-out means knowing it is constantly changing and that staff and personnel have to be periodically retrained. MAX Security Solutions’ years of knowledge and experience are available for you, as a business owner or security executive, offering intelligence, consulting services, and on-ground expertise in order to implement the most suitable security training program for your personnel.