India's government has declared the country's Maoist movement a terrorist organization. The action came after paramilitary forces were dispatched to the state of West Bengal to reclaim a rural town seized by armed guerrillas.
The move by India's central government, formally banning the Maoist faction of the Communist Party of India, allows for authorities to arrest any of its cadres or those deemed as sympathizers.
Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, noting the Maoist group was formed by the merger in 2004 of a pair of outlawed organizations, said the amendment to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act removes any question about the legal status of the violent group which is active in the eastern part of the country.
"It was always a terrorist organization. Today any ambiguity has been removed. It is a terrorist organization," he declared.
The Maoists are not to be confused with the non-violent Marxists, who run the governments of three Indian states: Kerala, Tripura and West Bengal.
The Maoists and Marxists are in open conflict in West Bengal. Recent attacks on government facilities in the state compelled the central government last week to dispatch paramilitary troops to retake the town of Lalgarh from the insurgents.
Despite the Maoists targeting their ideological cousins, the Secretary General of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Prakash Karat, predicted that the central government legal action against their armed rivals will not be effective.
"Because it doesn't serve the purpose. We know that if you ban them they'll function in the name of some other organization. You have a change of nomenclature but the problem will still remain," he said.
The Communist leader said the only way to combat the Maoists is through administrative and political measures.
West Bengal has not banned the Maoists, as has been done by three other states also afflicted with similar violence.
The Maoists are said to control one-third of India's forests from which they conduct frequent lethal assaults on police forces and target politicians.
The Maoist party was formed in 2004 by the merger of two outlawed revolutionary groups, part of the Naxalite movement which erupted out of a violent land dispute in West Bengal 42 years ago.
Some of India's destitute peasants are under the sway of the Naxalites. The Maoists, a core element, say they are fighting a people's war against corrupt police and government officials who fail to provide basic services to the landless poor.
The movement has gained further sympathy in rural West Bengal amid attempts by the state government to seize land for industrial projects.