In This Review

Colonial Institutions and Civil War: Indirect Rule and Maoist Insurgency in India
Colonial Institutions and Civil War: Indirect Rule and Maoist Insurgency in India
By Shivaji Mukherjee
Cambridge University Press, 2021, 415 pp

The Maoist, or Naxalite, insurgency has flared up and cooled down several times over the past half century in scattered districts of eastern India. Its geographic pattern is difficult to explain solely with conventional theories that focus on the distribution of economic and ethnic grievances and topographical remoteness. Mukherjee shows that the insurgency has flourished in districts where the British colonists ruled through traditional princes or the local landlord caste instead of with their own bureaucracy. Exploitation under indirect rule was harsher and the policing system weaker than under direct rule. This left behind deep inequality, discrimination against subordinate castes and tribes, thin infrastructure, and understaffed administrative institutions—all favorable conditions for the revolutionaries to recruit support when they launched their movement in the late 1960s. Mukherjee’s analysis promises to enrich the understanding of how historical legacies shape civil conflicts.