India's government has declared the Maoist faction of the Communist Party of India a terrorist organization.
The decision Monday to formally ban the country's Maoist movement allows authorities to arrest any of its cadres or people deemed as sympathizers.
Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said the action removes any ambiguity about the legal status of the group -- which, he said, always was a terrorist organization.
But the Secretary General of the Communist Party of India Prakash Karat predicted the government ban will not be effective, because the rebels will function under a different name. He said the only way to combat the Maoists is through administrative and political measures.
The decision by the central government in New Delhi came as authorities in five states Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal braced for possible attacks by Maoist rebels following their calls for a two-day general strike on Monday and Tuesday.
The Maoists are said to control one-third of India's eastern forests, from which they launch attacks on police forces and target politicians.
They say they are fighting oppression, exploitation and corruption on behalf of India's poor and landless people.
The Maoists are active in at least 13 of India's 29 states. Their violent insurgency has killed thousands of people in the past few decades.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said the Maoists are the gravest threat to India's internal security.