January 5, 2018

Set up column break

Motivating Puzzles

POLI 110

Communal Violence in India

  • Largest democracy, arguably most diverse
  • But ethnic violence a problem since Independence (1947)
  • Can democracy be compatible with such diversity?

Ram Ke Naam

"In the Name of God"

  • 1991 Documentary

  • Covers protest and political activity around Babri Masjid (mosque) in Ayodhya

While you watch

  • What questions this film raises for you?
  • particularly about politics
  • Write those questions down

What questions did this raise?

Some kinds of question:


  • What caused the conflict over the Babri Masjid?
    • deep historical religious tensions?
    • modern politics?
  • Did the Rath Yatra (BJP/Advani's pilgrimage to Ayodhya):
    • have political benefits for the BJP?
    • lead to violence?
  • Do caste differences intensify or weaken Hindu-Muslim tensions?

Some kinds of question:


  • Does democracy intensify or moderate ethnic/religious differences?

  • How can minority groups receive protections in a democracy?

  • Do political parties stir up ethnic/religious conflicts?

  • Do political parties make electoral gains from conflict?

  • What kinds of constitutional arrangements make ethnic/religious conflict more or less likely?

Two investigations

Rath Yatra

What effects did it have on

  • voting?
  • violence?

Why might it have an effect?

Cultural appeals:

  • drew upon Hindu religious iconography / pilgrimage
  • aimed to unify religious community
  • narrative in which Hindus victims of Muslims


  • major news coverage
  • large audience: march moved through cities, towns, villages

How would we know?

  • How did the BJP performed in places along the route?
  • Was there violence in places along the route?
  • Ask people on the route?

Compared to what?

  • Occurrence of Yatra due to prior religious tensions
    • Any violence/ support for BJP incidental
  • Yatra route chosen to visit supporters
    • BJP performance is better due to planning process, not event

A social scientific approach:

Blakeslee (2014) looks at effect of location on Yatra Route on:

  • 1991 MP elections
  • Hindu-Muslim riots


  • Data on MP constituencies
    • did Yatra pass through
    • Election outcomes
    • attributes of places on Yatra route

Do you see a pattern?

  • Riots in red
  • Yatra route in blue
  • States: bold
  • MP constituencies: thin

Results: Riots

Results: Riots

Finds more riots in places on the route…

…even when comparing MP constituencies

  • only from states that saw Yatra
  • that were similarly urban / rural
  • with similar histories of riots

Do you see a pattern?

y: 1991 BJP % | x: 1989 BJP % | lines: average yatra/non-yatra

Results: Elections