Maoists on the March in India
Rattled by a wave of Maoist attacks that have left hundreds dead, officials from 13 Indian states will meet on Friday to try to stem a rebellion that is menacing huge swathes of the country's centre, east and south.
The Maoist insurgency dates back 40 years but is finally beginning to register on the national consciousness as a significant threat to India's rural hinterland.
The rebels have gradually expanded their influence to around 165 of the country's 602 administrative districts in recent years forming a "red corridor" stretching from the southern tip of India all along its eastern half and up to Nepal, experts say.
Links with Nepal's powerful Maoist rebels have rung alarm bells, as has a dramatic upsurge in violence this year, mainly in the forests of the poor central state of Chhattisgarh.
"The government is beginning to panic now, they are beginning to realise that this problem is much larger than they had pretended," said Ajai Sahni of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi.
On Friday India's home secretary and the chief secretaries and police chiefs from 13 affected states will try to change that. One item on the agenda will be a draft plan to use the army to clear landmines which have been planted under many of the forest roads of southern Chhattisgarh, officials say.
The home ministry says nearly 1,000 people died in Maoist- violence last year, while a senior police officer told Reuters there were more than 20,000 armed rebels backed by hundreds of thousands of supporters.
Ajit Doval, a former director of India's Intelligence Bureau, said left-wing extremism was now a bigger threat to the country than Islamic militancy in Kashmir or separatist militancy in the northeast.
"Unless some master strategic response is formulated and executed, the nation may find most of its rural hinterland overrun by an avalanche," he wrote in the Hindustan Times this week.