Lacina, Bethany (2017) Rival Claims: Ethnic Violence and Territorial Autonomy under Indian Federalism. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 261 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-472-13024-5

Erika Forsberg

Uppsala University

Post-independence India, even considering its large population, has seen unusual amounts of ethnoterritorial conflicts. Yet, earlier scholarship has been more focused on explaining non-territorial conflicts, such as the Hindu-Muslim riots. The book offers a coherent and convincing argument on the drivers of ethnoterritorial challenges. In contrast to previous research that primarily focuses on slow-moving, even static, factors such as ethnic composition and local geography and mostly on the dyadic relationship between the center and the periphery, Lacina explores the dynamic three-way interaction between the center, the regional government, and the challenger. The main claim is that instances of violence, as well as its outcome, may result from competing interests in the periphery. While the center is not unimportant, its choice of action when facing ethnoterritorial demands primarily reflects its political relationship with the rival claimants there. Building this argument, Lacina engages with a broad set of relevant literatures and reaches four hypotheses. To test these, she combines large-N analyses with rich case analyses using multiple layers of data, much of it uniquely collected for this project. While the theoretical inspiration grew out of fieldwork in Meghalaya, along with observing the unlikely link between the political rhetoric in Ghorkaland and Season 3 of Indian Idol, the in-depth analyses of Punjab and Bombay City show the relevance of her argument out of sample. Although the argument is analyzed in the context of India, the author demonstrates its wider applicability by using illustrative examples from other countries. In sum, for anyone interested in the study of contemporary politics and conflict in India, as well as ethnic violence more generally, this book serves as an invaluable reference.