I am an Assistant Professor in Political Science, at the University of Toronto, Mississauga, and also part of the Graduate Faculty at the University of Toronto, St. George. I am a Faculty Associate at the Center for South Asian Studies, Asian Institute, Munk School, University of Toronto.

In 2018-19, I was a Visiting Fellow at the Kroc Institute for Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame. https://www.facebook.com/krocinstitute/posts/10156332243510325

Research interests:

I work on political violence and conflict in India, and do research on insurgencies in South Asia, particularly focusing on the Maoist insurgency in India. I also have an interest in state formation, legacies of colonial institutions, and other types of political violence in South Asia. My research shows that historical legacies of state formation and land inequality matter to explain post-colonial insurgency and conflict, and urges the civil war scholarship to take history seriously. In future research I will investigate state and politician motivations and how that affects counter insurgency patterns and duration of conflict. 

I did my PhD in political science at Yale University. My dissertation was on the Maoist insurgency in India, and used data gathered during field work, archival data and quantitative analysis of sub national datasets to demonstrate that colonial institutions  of indirect rule selected by the British set up the structural conditions for post colonial insurgency through path dependent mechanisms. My book project builds on my dissertation and develops a novel typology of different types of princely states and land tenure and shows how they created mechanisms of land inequality and weak state capacity that facilitated Maoist insurgency.

Current Project: Historical Legacies of Conflict


Colonial Institutions and Civil War: Indirect Rule and Maoist insurgency in India. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Studies in Contentious Politics Series. https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/colonial-institutions-and-civil-war/D05469B6DFD858734AF9B41474FCA6FC

Book description:

What explains the peculiar spatial variation of Maoist insurgency in India? In this book, Mukherjee develops a novel typology of colonial indirect rule and land tenure in India, showing how they can lead to land inequality, weak state and Maoist insurgency. Using a multi-method research design that combines qualitative analysis of archival data on Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh states, Mukherjee demonstrates path dependence of land/ethnic inequality leading to Maoist insurgency. This is nested within a quantitative analysis of a district level dataset which uses an instrumental variable analysis to address potential selection bias in colonial choice of princely states. The author also analyses various Maoist documents, and interviews with key human rights activists, police officers, and bureaucrats, providing rich contextual understanding of the motivations of agents. Furthermore, he demonstrates the generalizability of his theory to cases of colonial frontier indirect rule causing ​ethnic secessionist insurgency in Burma, and the Taliban insurgency in Pakistan.


"Colonial Origins of Maoist Insurgency in India", Journal of Conflict Resolution, 62 (10), 2018,  (https://doi.org/10.1177/0022002717727818):

An article based on this research is published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution which does quantitative analysis of a district level dataset to show that different forms of indirect rule through princely states, and indirect revenue collection through landlords, created structural conditions for Maoist insurgency in India. In this article, I develop a new instrument for the British choice of indirect rule, based on wars in Europe which are exogenous to politics in India, and do IV2SLS analysis to address the issue of selection bias. This article provides evidence for the generalizability of the theory for the whole of India.
  • Awarded an 'Honorable Mention' for the Mary Parker Follett Best Article Award, Politics and History Section, APSA 2019

"Historical Legacies of colonial indirect rule: Princely states and Maoist insurgency in Central India", World Development, Volume 111, November 2018, Pages 113-129 (see https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2018.06.013)

This article uses a novel sub district dataset from the state of Chhattisgarh, and combines process tracing and quantitative analysis to show that areas previously under feudatory princely states in central India, tended to have Maoist conflict later. It uses an instrument based on random death of ruler during Lord Dalhousie's doctrine of lapse policy (1847-58) for the British choice of indirect rule, to address potential selection effects. It is the first study to use sub district datasets at the Assembly Constituency level to analyze insurgency in India, which is a novel empirical contribution. 

“Colonial Origins of Sons of the Soil Insurgency: Maoist Rebellion in Central India.” Asian Security, April 2021. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14799855.2020.1854228

What is the role of colonial institutions in creating the conditions for nativist sons of the soil (SoS) insurgency? The literature on sons of the soil conflicts has not explored the historical legacies of colonial institutions, nor has it sufficiently analyzed how land tenure institutions create sons of the soil conflict. I address these gaps, by proposing a theory of how British colonial indirect rule and land tenure institutions in India caused exploitation of land resources of indigenous tribes by ethnic outsiders, which caused SoS grievances that persisted through path dependence and were later mobilized by Maoist rebels in the former princely state of Bastar in Central India. I show generalizability of this mechanism to other cases of leftist insurgency in Colombia, Mexico and Philippines.

There are two main contributions of this article going beyond previous studies on SoS conflicts like Weiner (1978) and Fearon & Laitin (2011). The first is to show that colonial legacies matter to explain sons of the soil conflicts, and the second is to show that it is not just immigration but also exploitation of land revenue that leads to sons of the soil conflict (Boone 2017).

Future projects:

State motivations and civil war duration and intensity

In this project I plan to analyze politician motivations and counter insurgency and how that affects civil war duration and intensity. I will also analyze rebel motivations and try to develop a model which explains the phenomenon of persistent low intensity conflicts in South Asia. While many insurgencies in South Asia like the conflicts in Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram and Punjab have ended, others have continued like in Kashmir and the Maoist insurgency in some regions of India. What explains this variation? This project will try to compare across insurgency cases and develop a theory to explain this puzzle.


“Why are the Longest Insurgencies Low Violence? Politician Motivations, Sons of the Soil and Civil War Duration”. Civil Wars, Volume 16, Issue 2, 2014. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/13698249.2014.927702 
There is a puzzle yet unanswered by theorists of civil war – why are the longest insurgencies low levels of violence? I argue that medium capacity states with multiple insurgencies tend to choose a counter insurgency strategy of containment vis-a-vis peripheral sons of the soil insurgencies, causing them to become stalemated low scale conflicts. The theory is tested on the Fearon (2004) data-set, and shows that those medium capacity states with multiple conflicts and sons of the soil insurgencies tend to have these low intensity long lasting insurgencies.

I have also written some chapters on insurgencies in South Asia in the Oxford Handbook of South Asian Security and Routledge Handbook of Asian Security. These outline the histories of insurgencies in India, and what were their proximate and deeper structural causes.