India's tribal peoples caught between Maoist rebels and the state

Laxmi Devi, the mother of a suspected Maoist, said anti-rebel forces often raid her house.

Saurabh Sharma and Rishi Bhatnagar are members of 101Reporters, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.

Sukma, India (CNN)In central India, locals find themselves trapped in the middle of a decades-long conflict between Maoist rebels and the government.

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.
Last week, at least 25 police officers were killed in an ambush in Chhattisgarh state's Sukma district.
    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.

    Trapped

    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.
    Indian security forces patrol areas known to be used by Maoist rebels, who are active throughout central India.
    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.