Descriptive Representation and Conflict Reduction: Evidence from India's Maoist Rebellion


Can greater inclusion in democracy for historically-disadvantaged groups reduce rebel violence? Democracy-building is a common tool in counterinsurgencies and post-conflict states, yet existing scholarship has faced obstacles in measuring the independent effect of democratic reforms. We evaluate whether quotas for Scheduled Tribes in local councils reduced rebel violence in Chhattisgarh, an Indian state featuring high-intensity Maoist insurgent activity. We employ a geographic regression discontinuity design to study the effects of quotas implemented in Chhattisgarh, finding that reservations reduced Maoist violence in the state. Exploratory analyses of mechanisms suggest that reservations reduced violence by bringing local elected officials closer to state security forces, providing a windfall of valuable information to counterinsurgents. Our study shows that institutional engineering and inclusive representative democracy, in particular, can shape the trajectory of insurgent violence.

Journal of Peace Research
Aidan Milliff
Aidan Milliff
Assistant Professor