Is India’s Red Corridor Insurgency a Non-International Armed Conflict? – LEGAL OFFICER – Commentary

Mritunjay Pathak, a fifth year, BA LL.B (Hons.) At Maharashtra National Law University, Nagpur, India, discusses the possibility of classifying India’s naxalism insurgency movement as a non-international armed conflict under international humanitarian law …

Recently, on July 22, 2020, there was a exchange of gunfire between Naxals and the police in Korchi in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, which the Maoists call the “liberated zone”, once again drawing our attention to the insurgency that has been brewing in central and eastern India since 1967. Naxalism, also referred to as people’s war , began as a movement to uplift oppressed and oppressed peoples belonging to tribal communities, however, over time it has gradually evolved its form and ideology and now facilitates the capture of state power through terror and preaches violence against the ruling classes. Interestingly, according to the Indian government, the insurgency in the “red corridor”, a considerable part of Indian territory, is the “biggest internal security challenge”. The government is maneuvering astutely from the implications it would have had if we identified the insurgency as a “protracted armed conflict” under the laws of war. The government is trying to save its global reputation and shirk its obligations under the 1949 Geneva Conventions (GC) and principles of customary international law.

In this article, the author has attempted to discuss and argue that the Naxal insurgency, which has claimed thousands of lives and a considerable number of other victims, over the past four decades, is not a “threat to internal security”. Instead, the insurgency constitutes a non-international armed conflict (NIAC) under international humanitarian law (IHL).

In the case of The Prosecutor v. Dusko Tadic, the ICTY Tribunal observed that an armed conflict is “the use of armed forces between States or prolonged armed violence between government authorities and organized armed groups or between such groups within a State”. In other words, CANI are armed conflicts in which at least one party is not a State. In addition, it is widely accepted that NIACs, in light of Common Article 3, which establishes a rudimentary framework of the responsibilities of the parties during NIACs, also include incidents of war where non-state armed groups fight against each other. against others and where there is no state involvement. In order to differentiate an armed conflict from less serious types of violence, such as internal disturbances and demonstrations, the situation must reach a certain threshold level of confrontation. The following section of the article discusses the two determining factors in establishing the threshold for an armed conflict to be qualified as NIAC.

For the Maoist insurgency to be qualified as NIAC, it must meet the two required criteria, namely, a certain degree of organization among the Maoists and the intensity of the violence. The Naxalite movement, concentrated in the CPI (Maoist), is very hierarchical and centralized. It has a central committee (which controls all operations) and other subordinate committees as well as the People’s Revolutionary Committee (also known as the People’s Government). In 2003, the Popular Revolutionary Committee had influence over 2,000 villages. In addition, the Central Committee sets the agendas and exercises control over the Central Military Commission which is responsible for coordinating Guerrilla People’s Liberation Army (PLGA), an armed wing that would contain 25,000 soldiers or more. According to various social scientists, discipline is maintained in the ranks of the PLGA by punishing those who do not obey orders. In addition, they focus on the use of military might as a means of establishing an independent state and more than 12,000 people were killed over the past 20 years.

The Indian government, with the support of various state governments, has deployed its police and paramilitary forces since the start of the conflict in response to the Naxalites. There was a state sponsored militia, Salwa judum (aka an armed civilian vigilante group) to wage a brutal war against the Maoists. In addition, in 2009, the CRPF launched a large-scale operation against the Naxalites, known by the media as “Operation Green Hunting”, and 84,000 CRPF members were reportedly deployed to areas infected with Naxalism. The Indian military denies its direct involvement, however, the military has trained paramilitary forces and police and may also be involved in counterinsurgency missions. Naxalites display their organizational skills and hierarchical system quite palpably, as well as their ability to organize armed attacks, plan activities, and control a project over a large area. Regarding the intensity criteria, more than 50,000 people have been displaced as a result of the war and the army is said to be involved in the supply of weapons and training. Speaking of territorial occupation, the ‘Red corridorThe area spans over eight or more states, including Maharashtra and Telangana. In addition, this conflict has so far resulted in the murder of 2,700 members of the security forces. The comprehensive reading of all of the above points suggests that the Maoist insurgency is a NIAC, as all the conditions have been effectively met and humanitarian law is invoked. This suggests that India is fighting to protect the lives of its people (civilians) in the areas affected by the conflict.

The rules of IHL were formulated with the aim of balancing military needs with respect for humanity. However, it appears that the Indian government is not in a position to appreciate the same and has renounced its commitments in not to ratify Additional Protocol II (AP). However, common Article 3 as well as the principles of customary international law remain applicable. Before discussing the implications, the author wishes to discuss the reasons why India does not ratify PA-II. First, the Indian government felt that the protocol has a high threshold for application and does not encompass the new category of armed conflict, i.e. NIAC per se. armed conflicts are entitled to the same protection, whether international or non-international. Honestly, the aforementioned claims are not convincing and show the reluctance of the Indian government not to be bound by the obvious responsibilities that the ratification of PA-II would have placed.

Speaking of the Geneva Convention Act of 1960, she failed to protect victims of armed conflict. The Supreme Court in the event of Rev. Mons Sebastiao Fransisco Xavier Dos Remedios Monterio c. Goa State points out that this law does not confer any special remedy but simply indirect protection by providing for violations of the Convention and that it is not enforceable against the government.

First, qualifying a conflict as NIAC and bringing it under IHL places restrictions on the actions of all parties to the conflict. Second, the Naxalites would be subject to international standards, as would the Indian government. Both can be prosecuted for their violent movements against each other. Third, under the customary principle of humane treatment, obligations such as the prohibition of collective punishment, the prohibition of violence against life and the person, and the prohibition of violating the dignity of individuals will arise. Finally, IHL obliges parties to follow the “principle of distinction” and civilians will benefit from general protection.

Indian Maoists have been fighting for decades, claiming to represent the grievances of indigenous peoples who still go unrecognized in the majority population. This insurgency has claimed thousands of lives and displaced hundreds of people. Although the intensity of the insurgency has decreased considerably in recent years. However, this question remains a fundamental debate and the author therefore felt that he should give this “national question” an international flavor and study it in the light of IHL. The NIAC law is still under development and has not reached its peak. However, case law has been put into practice by the various Courts and the ICC and has grown considerably. This means that the Maoist insurgency can very well be studied in the light of the principles of Common Article 3 and customary international law. From territorial control to the presence of the CRPF and the chain of command, everything was investigated and the author came to the conclusion that the insurgency is a NIAC. Due to some reservations, India did not ratify the PA-II and objected when, contrary to their belief, the UN called the rebellion an armed conflict. However, this will not release India from its responsibility for human rights violations and oblige all opposing parties to obey these laws under the principles of customary international law, as well as Common Article 3.

Mritunjay Pathak is a fifth year, BA LL.B (Hons.) At Maharashtra National Law University, Nagpur, India.

Suggested citation: Mritunjay Pathak, Is India’s Red Corridor Insurgency a Non-International Armed Conflict ?, JURIST – Student Commentary, October 1, 2020, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/10 / mritunjay-pathak-naxalism-niac /.


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