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While chapter 3 outlines how colonial indirect rule created the structural conditions for Maoist insurgency through multiple causal pathways, it also emphasizes that rebel agency in the form of ideological frames and organizational legacies plays an equally important role in mobilizing the ethnic networks of lower castes and tribes. In this chapter, I provide qualitative evidence to demonstrate this interaction between rebel agency and structural conditions created by colonial institutions. I first provide a detailed history of the organizational evolution of the various Maoist factions since the 1960s. Then, I use fieldwork interviews and textual analysis of Maoist documents to demonstrate that the Maoists are strategic about their choice of area, based on local politics, terrain, ethnic composition, and level of economic development. However, even within those areas they considered favorable based on terrain, inequality, and politics, they were successful only where the British colonial institutions of zamindari (landlord) land tenure or certain types of princely states were present. This demonstrates that rebel agency interacts with and is constrained by the opportunity structures of land/ethnic inequality available in areas of former indirect rule and revenue collection.
In this chapter, I address the issue of selection bias more directly. First, I present a comparative case study using most-similar research design between the two similar princely states of Awadh and Hyderabad, which shows that historical contingency determined by external geo-political circumstances prevented British from being selective and led to direct rule in Awadh vs. indirect rule in Hyderabad. Second, I develop a new instrument for the British choice of indirect rule through princely states based on the exogenous effect of major European Great Power wars that decreased the ability of the British to fight wars of annexation to bring additional territory into direct rule and increased their tendency to sign treaties of indirect rule with Indian states on the frontiers of British direct rule. The instrumental variable (IV-2SLS) analysis is a major empirical contribution and allows an estimate of the causal effects of colonial indirect rule on Maoist insurgency. I also develop a fine-grained typology of different types of princely states and show that warrior states like Mysore had higher development, while successor states like Hyderabad and feudatory states like Bastar had more inequality and less development and thus Maoist insurgency.
A fundamental question remains unanswered by theorists of civil war—do colonial institutions play a role in creating conditions for insurgency? In contrast to the scholarship on civil wars which tend to focus on proximate causes of rebellion, this book proposes that many insurgencies around the world -- in Colombia, Sri Lanka, Burma, Nigeria -- have origins in deep historical processes. Bringing history back into the study of civil wars can provide a deeper understanding of the roots of some insurgencies. It can also explain the persistence of conflict which theories of civil war that focus on more proximate determinants cannot. I outline the case of the Maoist insurgency in India, which exemplifies how different forms of colonial indirect rule and indirect revenue collection created land and ethnic inequalities that persisted and created the conditions for rebellion. Analysis of this case has lessons for the long-term legacies of historical institutions for insurgency and allows us to address endogeneity and explain recurrence of conflict. I outline several contributions of my theory to the literature on colonial legacies and political violence in South Asia, and describe the mixed methods nested analysis research design in the book.
Similar to the Chhattisgarh chapter, I use archival and interview data to do process tracing of the mechanisms for another crucial pathway case of Maoist insurgency in Andhra Pradesh. The Telangana districts of Andhra Pradesh that had Maoist insurgency were historically part of the princely state of Hyderabad where Nizam’s rule created lower levels of development and land inequality and despotic extraction, which then persisted into postcolonial times through path dependence. The Telangana peasant rebellion of 1946-49 provided rebel agency and organizational networks and was followed by the CPI-Marxist- Leninist movement in 1967-72, and culminated in the People’s War Group (PWG) Maoist insurgency in the 1980s. All these rebellions succeeded in the Telangana districts of the former princely state of Hyderabad, and not in the British direct ruled areas of Madras province that had higher levels of development and less land inequality. I also describe the history of evolution of the PWG Maoists in Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh and show how rebel agency exploited the structural conditions to create successful Maoist insurgency. Finally, I test the theory on an Assembly Constituency dataset to show that former princely state constituencies had positive correlation with Maoist control.
In this chapter, I show that existing theories of colonial legacies in South Asia cannot explain the full spatial variation of Maoist control in India. I engage with alternate explanations by Verghese (2016) and Iyer (2010) and show empirical and conceptual weaknesses in their arguments. Different types of colonial indirect rule created the ethnic inequalities and weak state capacity that are exploited by the Maoist rebels to foment insurgency and need to be included in the theoretical framework to explain this spatial variation. I develop a general theoretical framework of how colonial indirect rule can create opportunity structures in the form of weak state, ethnic mobilization networks in the form of excluded ethnic groups with grievances, and how these structural conditions are then exploited by rebel leaders who provide ideological frames of rebellion to start and sustain rebellion. While none of these conditions is sufficient to produce rebellion, rebel agency in the form of ideological frames in conjunction with such opportunity structures and ethnic networks is a jointly sufficient condition to explain insurgency. My theory conceptualizes rebellion as part of a long-term process of state formation unlike the current myopic frameworks of civil war theory.
Why were Maoists not as successful in certain states within India with former princely states and zamindari tenure? Examples are Kerala formed out of princely states Cochin and Travancore and Malabar district with zamindari land tenure, and also Karnataka, which includes the former princely state of Mysore. What explains these exceptional cases? Qualitative analysis using historical data shows that these are not really exceptions but rather influential cases where “apparent deviations from the norm are not really deviant, or do not challenge the core of the theory, once the circumstances of the special case or cases are fully understood.” To explain these influential cases, I use the typology of different types of princely states from Chapter 6 and demonstrate that Kerala and Karnataka had warrior or challenger states like Mysore or Travancore that resulted in higher levels of centralization and state capacity and less land inequality than the feudatory/tributary princely states in Chhattisgarh or the successor state of Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh discussed in earlier chapters. A second reason the Maoists have not been as successful in Kerala and Karnataka was that land inequality was reversed due to progressive postcolonial political parties enacting land reforms.
This chapter applies the theory to India. I first describe the colonial history of how the British annexed certain Indian states into direct rule and signed treaties with other Indian princes as indirect rule. I then develop a theory of different types of indirect rule within India—a formal type of indirect rule through princely states and an informal type of indirect rule through zamindars/landlords. These different types of colonial indirect rule created different causal pathways of structural inequalities and low state capacity, which persisted through path dependent mechanisms into the postcolonial period to result in Maoist insurgency in the 1980s. The zamindari landlord tenure system created one causal pathway of land/caste inequality and lower bureaucratic penetration in the northern epicenter of insurgency in Bihar/Bengal, while the princely states in central-eastern India created a second causal pathway of exploitation of land and natural resources in tribal areas in Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. I also theorize the role of rebel agency in the form of Maoist leaders and organizations and analyze how the interaction of rebel agency with the structural conditions created by indirect rule creates conjunctural causation for Maoist insurgency.
I use archival and fieldwork-based qualitative data to do process tracing of the causal mechanisms of the crucial pathway case of the Maoists in Chhattisgarh. The northern and southern parts of Chhattisgarh had colonial indirect rule through feudatory princely states, which created weak state capacity and despotic extraction of land revenue and natural resources through landlords and feudatory chiefs. This created tribal grievances that persisted in the postcolonial period in the 1950s-80s through path dependence of these mechanisms, which were mobilized by the People’s War Group (PWG) Maoists, leading to high levels of Maoist rebel control by the 1990s. In contrast the central districts of Raipur and Bilaspur had been under British direct rule and had relatively higher levels of development and less exploitation of forest and natural resources of tribals, and so the Maoists did not succeed there. I describe the history of the PWG Maoists and how they contributed to the welfare of the tribals and opposed natural/forest resource exploitation, which highlights the role of rebel agency. Finally, I develop a novel constituency-level dataset to test the theory and show that former princely state constituencies had more Maoist control.
In this chapter, I test the theory of the effect of colonial indirect rule on postcolonial insurgency using an all-India district-level dataset. I use unique Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) data as a measure of the dependent variable of Maoist control. Unlike other quantitative studies of Maoist insurgency that use measures of violence from 2005 to 2010 as their dependent variable, I do not use such violence data as my dependent variable since violence is only the most visible aspect of insurgency and does not measure actual Maoist rebel control, which is a more multidimensional concept. There is potential bias in the OLS regression estimates since the British possibly selected those districts for indirect rule that were worse off in terms of revenue and productivity. To correctly estimate the causal effect of colonial indirect rule, I control for some observable pre-colonial determinants of indirect rule choice, like forest cover, terrain, soil quality, and pre-colonial agrarian rebellion and find that princely state is still a statistically significant predictor of Maoist control. While these pre-colonial qualities may have played a role in the choice of institutions, once in place such colonial indirect rule had an independent causal effect on postcolonial insurgency.
The book ends by asking if there are any policy implications of my theory based on colonial institutions. A likely criticism of my theory is that the structural conditions created by colonialism are persistent and sticky and cannot be changed by the government. I show there are policy implications, for example, if political parties are really committed to land reforms as in Kerala and Karnataka, they can reverse some of the pernicious effects of indirect rule and indirect land tenure. Another possible critique of my theory is whether it can explain recent violence patterns of the Maoist conflict. The level of Maoist violence has declined since 2013-14, and the number of surrenders by Maoist cadres has increased in recent years, but low-level violence and attacks against security forces continue. The Maoist insurgency falls into the pattern of low-intensity but persistent insurgencies like the Kashmir and northeast insurgencies in India. While my theory based on colonial legacies is supposed to explain only the initial spatial variation of insurgency, and not its expansion and patterns of violence, it allows us to explain persistence and historical recurrence of conflict.