More than 2,100 civilians have died in the past seven years, according to official figures
, but for those who must live with it, the death toll doesn't come close to describing their plight.
Maoist rebel groups -- also known as Naxals -- use the jungles of central India for their hideouts, from which they launch attacks on government forces in an attempt to overthrow the state and usher in a classless society.
The area in which the Maoists are active is mainly populated by tribal peoples
, some of the most deprived in the country. These villagers, cut off from India's rapidly growing economy, live in fear of rebels taking their children as recruits, or of violent government raids.
According to the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management (ICM), Maoist groups are currently active in 156 districts of 13 states across India.
Former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh once described
Maoist rebels -- who are well organized and trained -- as the country's "gravest internal security threat."
While the insurgency has been ongoing since the 1960s, it saw a resurgence in recent years, to which the government has responded with a major security crackdown that has been criticized as heavy-handed and prone to abuse.
Villagers told CNN they are forced to pay taxes to the Maoists, or face abuse or even torture. But if they do pay up, they risk being labeled Maoist sympathizers by government forces, which could lead to sedition charges and a minimum three years behind bars -- and even lifetime imprisonment.