Indian police have killed up to twenty Maoist rebels in a clash in the Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh, a state in south-central India. Six members of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), a local paramilitary, were also wounded in the gunfight on Friday morning.

However, according to BBC, local tribal people claim that the people killed were their fellow tribesmen and not Communist insurgents.

Nonetheless, Maoists remain in force in India.

More than three decades after the death of Chinese Communist leader Mao Tse-Tung, Maoist rebels remain active in more than one-third of India’s 600 districts, primarily along the eastern parts of the country.

Thousands of the people have died over the past four decades of violence between Maoist guerrillas and the Indian government, particularly in the state of West Bengal.

The fighters are called ‘Naxalites,’ in honor of the West Bengal village of Naxalbari where the group was founded in 1967. Inspired by the Communist revolution of Chairman Mao, the Naxalites have demanded land and jobs for impoverished farmers and the poor.

They also want India to become a Communist state.

Reportedly, the Naxalite movement at one time had as many as 20,000 fighters, principally in eastern India, but also in the central part of the country. Naxalite violence peaked in the 1970s before the government crushed it.

The recent upsurge in Maoist violence had spurred India’s national government to crack down harder on the insurgency. India has also accused China and Pakistani intelligence of providing financial aid to Naxalites.

No less an authority than India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has characterized the Maoists as the biggest internal security threat facing India, even more so than Islamic militant groups.

India’s official Communist Party is also Maoist and seeks to overthrow the Indian government. There is also a Maoist movement in neighboring Nepal. Otherwise, outside of China, it would appear that admiration for Chairman Mao has largely dissipated across much of the world.