BHANUPRATAPUR FOREST RESERVE, India — The gray light of dawn broke over the bamboo forest as the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army prepared for a new day...
The company commander, Gopanna Markam, patiently shaved.
"We have made the people aware of how to change your life through armed struggle, not the ballot," said Mr. Markam, who is in his mid-40's, describing his troops' accomplishments. "This is a people's war, a protracted people's war."
Mr. Markam's ragtag forces, who hew to Mao's script for a peasant revolution, fought a seemingly lost cause for so long, they were barely taken seriously beyond India's desperately wanting forest belt. But not anymore.
Today the fighting that Mr. Markam has quietly nurtured for 25 years looks increasingly like a civil war, one claiming more and more lives and slowing the industrial growth of a country hungry for the coal, iron and other riches buried in these isolated realms bypassed by India's economic boom.
While the far more powerful Maoist insurgency in neighboring Nepal has received greater attention, the conflict in India, though largely separate, has gained momentum, too. In the last year, it has cost nearly a thousand lives.
Here in central Chhattisgarh State, the deadliest theater of the war, government-aided village defense forces have lately taken to hunting Maoists in the forests. Hand in hand with the insurgency, the militias have dragged the region into ever more deadly conflict.
Villagers, caught in between, have seen their hamlets burned. Nearly 50,000 are now displaced, living in flimsy tent camps, as the counterinsurgency tries to cleanse the countryside of Maoist support.
The insurgents blow up railway tracks, seize land and chase away forest guards. They have made it virtually impossible for government officials, whose presence here in the hinterland is already patchy, to function. Police posts, government offices and industrial plants are favored targets. Their ultimate goal is to overthrow the state.
Today the Communist Party of India (Maoist), which exists solely as an underground armed movement with no political representation, is a rigidly hierarchical outfit with toeholds in 13 of 28 Indian states. It stretches from the tip of India through this east-central state to the northern border with Nepal, where the Maoists have set off full-scale civil war.
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