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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Talk Tomorrow: Anoop Sarbahi on Land Tenure and Communist Insurgency in India

Land Tenure and Communist Insurgency in India
Anoop Sarbahi, Political Science

Date:   Wednesday Nov 30th
Time:   2:00-3:15 pm
Place:  1314 Social Sciences (Lippincott Room)
Series: Comparative Politics Colloquium

This paper investigates the effects of colonial-era land tenure systems on the incidence of communist insurgency in India. Of the two dominant systems of land tenure, the ryotwari system involving direct revenue settlement with cultivators are generally considered to be better than zamindari system that relies on feudal intermediaries. The former is widely associated with better socio-economic and political outcomes in post-colonial India. This paper questions the frequently-articulated superiority of the ryotwari system over the zamindari system in the context of a `minimalist' colonial state that seeks to maximize its revenue while minimizing administrative expenditure. I contend that both of the systems were similarly repressive and extractive. Importantly, they differed in the existence of a localized, relatively decentralized and autonomous political authority in the zamindari area, which mitigated the vulnerability of these areas to armed insurgencies. I leverage the variation in land tenure within the dominion of the Nizam of Hyderabad in British India, the largest princely state, to help explain the incidence of the communist uprising in Telangana in the 1940s. Relying on archival and historical data, I demonstrate that the incidents of uprising were directly linked to the ryotwari settlement. This relationship holds when we analyze the contemporary Maoist insurgency in Andhra Pradesh, that embraced the bulk of the area of Hyderabad.

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