India: Patterns of Violence and Conflict

Although India is perceived as a rather peaceful country, there is a multitude of tensions and conflicts, and violence is the order of the day.

Maoist rebels – Naxalites

Little is known about the conflict between the central government and Maoist guerrilla groups, the so-called Naxalites. The conflict began with a violent uprising in the village of Naxalbari (West Bengal) in 1967, which wanted to enforce the redistribution of land to the landless population. The Naxalites are active in about 101 districts (out of a total of 707), in an area that stretches from northern Bihar to southern Kerala and is known as the “ Red Corridor”” referred to as. The states of Bihar (with 22 districts), Jharkhand (21), Odisha (19) and Chhattisgarh (16) are particularly affected. These districts are at the same time the economically and socially most disadvantaged districts (but often also the most resource-rich areas) of India, which are over-proportionally inhabited by Adivasi (“scheduled tribes”). The habitat and thus the livelihood of the indigenous peoples is increasingly threatened by mining, infrastructure projects, the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZ), etc. Therefore, the Adivasi also make up the vast majority of the guerrilla fighters. In 2010 the well-known Indian Writer Arundhati Roy spent several weeks at the Maoist guerrillas; published numerous articles and a book about her experiences.

In 2006, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rated the Naxalites as the greatest threat to internal security India has ever faced. Since then, the state has increasingly tried to master the threat posed by the Naxalites, both through the increased use of security forces and the targeted use of development programs in the areas particularly affected. At times, a citizen militia (e.g. the Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh) was set up, but was then banned by the Supreme Court in 2011 because it was held responsible for human rights violations, among other things.

Separatism in the Northeast

In the northeast of India, a variety of (often smaller) rebel groups from different are since the 1950’s motifs out active. The northeast is only connected to the rest of India by a 23 km wide corridor (the so-called Siliguri Corridor). Only about 3% of the Indian population live in this area, the majority of which (with the exception of Assam) can be attributed to the indigenous peoples (Adivasi). There are around 220 different Adivasi groups there.

Although the Indian government tried as early as the 1980’s to stop or weaken the secessionist movements by creating seven new states (Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur and Tripura), the conflict has not yet been resolved. This is due to the complexity of the conflicts and the many actors in the conflict.

According to, the situation has eased somewhat through agreements with larger rebel groups (with the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) in 2011 and with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) in 2015), but many other rebel groups have not joined the Talks and agreements involved, so the situation remains uncertain. Emergency law in much of the region is still in place, and Indian security forces, as in Kashmir (see below), are held responsible for human rights abuses.

Inter-ethnic violence

Since independence there have been repeated clashes between Hindus and Muslims. The most recent major incidents occurred in Gujarat in 2002, where over 1,000 Muslims were killed, and in 2013 in Muzzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, with a total of 62 deaths. In Gujarat, the unrest took place under the passive toleration of the then Prime Minister Narendra Modi (and his BJP), who was no longer welcome internationally and, for example, did not receive an entry permit for the USA until his appointment as Prime Minister in 2014.

In the course of increasing Hindu nationalism and the associated persecution of religious minorities, violence against Christians has also increased.

Violence against Dalits and Adivasi is the order of the day. The number of officially reported crimes has increased in recent years, mainly because Dalits and Adivasi are now increasingly standing up for their rights, accepting their subordinate position in society less and less and thus attracting the anger of the dominant castes.

Lately the violence has been directed increasingly against Muslims. The processing and consumption of beef has been banned in many of the BJP-ruled states. This not inconsiderable branch of industry is predominantly in Muslim hands. With the ban, they were deprived of their livelihood. In addition, violent mobs went in search of people allegedly circumventing the beef ban. There were 18 fatalities in 2018 alone.

Violence against women

After the brutal mass rape of a student resulting in death in New Delhi in 2012 attracted international attention, the issue of violence against women in India has moved somewhat more into focus. India is a predominantly patriarchal country in which women play a subordinate role. Girls and women are disadvantaged throughout their lives and are involved in various forms of violence exposed. These include the abortion of female fetuses, the often systematic neglect of girls such as their reduced educational opportunities, the subordinate role of the wife in the man’s family and the dire fate of widows. Despite some reform measures on the part of the government, a cultural change is only slowly becoming apparent.

Cashmere conflict

Kashmir is located in the far north of the country and since the partition of British India in 1947, both India and Pakistan claimed. After the First Kashmir War in 1947/48, both countries kept parts of Kashmir under their control, separated by a line of control monitored by the United Nations. Since then, there have been further wars between the two nuclear powers India and Pakistan, as well as an armed conflict in 1999 (Kargil conflict).

In the part of Kashmir, which belongs to India, several separatist groups have formed which are fighting the Indian state. These are often supported by Pakistan or the Pakistani secret service ISI. In this conflict, the civilian population is primarily the victim of the prevailing emergency laws and sometimes violent actions by the Indian security forces. A spiral of violence has existed in Kashmir for many years. After a rather quiet phase between 2011 and 2014, the situation has recently deteriorated significantly again.

Islamist terror

Another threat to internal security is currently Islamist terror, which is often carried directly through Pakistan. There have been repeated attacks in India. These include the attack on the Indian parliament in 2001 and the bomb attacks in Mumbai (2008), Delhi and many other cities, including a café in Pune in 2010. India must also expect Islamist attacks in the future.

India Conflicts