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. These quotas did not originate as a counterinsurgency technique, but instead as an effort to address the longstanding political marginalization of India’s Scheduled Tribes. We employ a geographic regression discontinuity design to study the wartime 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, like reforms to create more inclusive representative democracy, can shape the trajectory of insurgent violence. Institutional engineering creating more inclusive representative democracy during an ongoing conflict can affect the political economy of information sharing in civil war and, ultimately, affect the trajectory of insurgent violence.
This was originally published on SAGE Publications Ltd: Journal of Peace Research: Table of Contents.