Structure of Religion, Ethnicity & Insurgent Mobilization: Evidence from India

Author: Anoop Sarbahi

This paper problematizes the social structure of ethnic groups to account for the variation in insurgent mobilization within and across ethnic groups. Relying on network-based approaches to social structure, it argues that insurgent mobilization is constrained by the structural connectivity of the ethnic group, which measures the extent to which sub-ethnic communities – neighborhoods, villages, clans and tribes – are socially connected internally and with each other. In agrarian societies, structural connectivity is traced to religion. The paper leverages unique data on rebel recruitment from the Mizo insurgency in India and micro-level variations in changes associated with the spread of Christianity among Mizos to demonstrate that enhanced structural connectivity resulting from a network of highly-centralized churches and institutions under the Welsh Presbyterian Mission significantly bolstered insurgent recruitment. Semi-structured interviews of 77 Mizo insurgents and ethnographic evidence from the neighboring Meitei and Naga ethnic insurgencies further bolster the argument and casual mechanism.


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