India's Maoist Insurgency: A Federal Problem with a Federal Solution?

Led by Jason Miklian
May 2009 - Dec 2010

The Communist Party of India-Maoist (or Maoists) aims to violently overthrow the democratic institutions of India. The growing insurgency has killed hundreds of citizens each year since 2004, with hundreds of thousands more now living in conflict zones throughout India’s heartland. This project will answer questions about what we know (and what we should attempt to learn) about India’s conflict resolution approaches to more accurately understand and predict where the Maoist conflict will break out, where it can be contained, and how differing responses have shaped the conflict both positively and negatively. This project gives Norwegian policymakers the appropriate theoretical and contextual tools to understand rationales behind India’s internal conflict resolution mechanisms, structures, and policies, and gives Indian policymakers the opportunity to examine the benefits and pitfalls of their conflict management solutions.

 To understand the present realities of the conflict, and provide suggestions for a durable resolution, we will address the mechanisms by which India incorporates conflict management (utilizing all tools from development to negotiation to force), how interactions between the centre and states color the conflict, and the challenges and opportunities that decentralization presents when managing a conflict crossing subunit boundaries.

  Our primary objective is to provide realistic policy-relevant recommendations to understand the growth of the Maoist conflict in India and highlight openings for resolution. In order to do this, we will examine the centre, subunit, and local levels, focusing on interactive dynamics that define decision-making for both the government and Maoists, tracing subunit conflict management strategies and Maoist responses.

  We will systematically study interactions between the Indian centre and its subunits, examining the frameworks used for conflict management, highlighting which approaches either increase or decrease response efficiency and capacity. We will question how institutional mechanisms of decentralization create, sustain, prevent, or otherwise alter conflicts throughout their lifecycle, from the state, subunit, rebel group, and grassroots perspectives to produce results that improve conflict management strategies in India and potentially for decentralized states in general. We will build upon previous fieldwork and research done by the core team on the Maoist conflict and the Indian response to examine two themes:

  •  India’s decentralized federal government contains mechanisms that can both facilitate and impede conflict management.
  •  The Maoists are exploiting India’s federal structure and disparate conflict responses to find the most conducive battleground for their fight.



Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Miklian, Jason (2011) Revolutionary Conflict in Federations: The Indian Case , Conflict, Security and Development 11(1): 25–53.
Miklian, Jason; & Carney, Scott (2010) India's Hidden War , Foreign Policy .