October 31, 2022

Strategic Violence

Outline

  • Example: Muzaffarnagar Riot
  • Strategic ethnic violence
  • Wilkinson (2004)

An Example

Muzaffarnagar Riot

What factors seem important in explaining why this violence took place?

Strategic Ethnic Violence

Strategic Ethnic Violence:

Fearon and Laitin (2000) identify different different strategic logics:

  • “elite manipulation”
    • political elites encourage/foment ethnic violence for strategic reasons
  • “on-the-ground”
    • ordinary people have incentives to participate in ethnic violence

Elite Manipulation

Political elites may encourage violence for several reasons:

  • Win Elections:
    • increase attractiveness of ethnic vs other parties
    • suppress/displace voters for rival parties
  • Consolidate power:
    • shift balance of power within ethnic group
    • establish political dominance of one ethnic group

Violence as a means to accomplish these goals (directly or indirectly)

Elections and Violence

Wilkinson (2004)

Theorizes two strategic logics for ethnic violence:

  1. Electoral incentives create a motive to perpetrate violence

  2. Electoral incentives shape the opportunity for violence (the use of state/police forces to limit violence.)

Wilkinson (2004): Motive

Why would political elites encourage ethnic violence?

  • ethnic parties use violence to mobilize and capture the votes of co-ethnics

    • ethnic groups may not be united behind ethnic parties
    • ethnic parties have incentives to increase the salience of ethnic identity
    • provocative/controversial actions, processions
    • violence links physical safety to ethnic membership \(\to\) salience.
  • Violence may unify ethnic voters behind ethnic party \(\to\) winning elections.

Wilkinson (2004): Motive

If this is true, there are empirical implications:

  • ethnic parties must have capability to foment violence
  • ethnic parties stand to gain from violence, should encourage it
  • violence is more likely near elections, and when elections are competitive (close)
  • violence should actually affect voting
  • non-ethnic parties stand to lose, should stop violence

Evidence: Capability

What enables elites to foment/stop violence? In India…

  • Brass (2004): “institutionalized riot networks”
    • patronage networks connecting low-level party officials, Hindu nationalist organizations, criminals, police officials
    • can be used even when not holding office

Berenschot (2011):

  • “riot networks” are really just everyday political networks
    • Political influence over capacities for violence (police/crime), e.g. Delhi Riots
    • political parties use these networks differently

Evidence: Capability

Berenschot (2011):

In Ahmedabad (Gujarat) during 2002 riots:

  • Mixed Dalit-Muslim neighborhood with BJP (Hindu party) patronage network saw mobilization for violence
  • Mixed Dalit-Muslim neighborhood with Congress (multi-ethnic party) patronage network saw mobilization to defuse violence

Evidence:

Key empirical implications:

  • ethnic parties must have capability to foment violence (yes)
  • ethnic parties stand to gain from violence, should encourage it (anectdotally)
  • violence is more likely near elections, and when elections are competitive (close)
  • violence should actually affect voting
  • non-ethnic parties stand to lose, should stop violence

Evidence: Competition

Wilkinson (2004) looks at riots in towns in Uttar Pradesh

  • towns are more likely to experience riots when elections are less than 6 months away
  • towns in which the last MLA election was won by \(<5\%\) more likely to experience riots
  • Is this evidence that parties use violence strategically? (Are there other explanations for this pattern?)

Evidence: Competition?

Heightened ethnic tensions for other reasons (e.g., nationalist propaganda, prior violence, etc.)

  • may cause elections to be competitive
  • may make additional riots more likely

Hard to know that electoral competition causes riots to be more likely.

Evidence:

Key empirical implications:

  • ethnic parties must have capability to foment violence (yes)
  • ethnic parties stand to gain from violence, should encourage it (anectdotally)
  • violence is more likely near elections, and when elections are competitive (close) (maybe)
  • violence should actually affect voting
  • non-ethnic parties stand to lose, should stop violence

Evidence: Electoral Gains

How would we know whether riots benefit ethnic / hurt non-ethnic parties at the polls?

  • comparing places with riots to places without?
  • comparing election results in a place before/after riots?
  • comparing changes in election results in places with riots against places without

Evidence: Electoral Gains

Nellis et al (2016) find that riot in the year prior to an election…

  • decreases votes for Congress Party (multi-ethnic) at the next election, compared to places without riot
  • increases votes for BJP (Hindu ethnic party) at the next election, compared to places without riot

Evidence: Electoral Gains

Iyer and Shrivastava (2018) exploit “as-if random” riots to find the effect of riots on BJP (ethnic party) voteshare:

  • look at riots occurring when Hindu festivals fall on Friday (Muslim holy day)
  • these occur due to arbitrary overlap in religious calendars, inducing precipitating events
  • find that riots increase BJP voteshare

Evidence:

Key empirical implications:

  • ethnic parties must have capability to foment violence (yes)
  • ethnic parties stand to gain from violence, should encourage it (anectdotally)
  • violence is more likely near elections, and when elections are competitive (close) (maybe)
  • violence should actually affect voting (yes)
  • non-ethnic parties stand to lose, should stop violence

Wilkinson (2004): Opportunity

People with control over state/police/military forces have much stronger capacity to stop violence.

  • e.g., arresting/shooting rioters likely to bring a halt to violence.
  • Are there strategic incentives for governments to stop or permit violence to continue?

Gujarat (2002)

In late February 2002, a train carrying Hindu nationalists home to Gujarat from Ayodhya\(^*\) caught fire, 58 people died

  • the cause of fire is disputed, but allegations that Muslims had set fire to the train
  • Hindu nationalists across India held demonstrations, processions, or attacks against minorities during this period, explicitly linked to the violence in Gujarat.

Confrontations across India (see squares)

But… major riots (circles) limited to Gujarat

Wilkinson (2004)

Government in Gujarat did not stop the riots. BJP (Narendra Modi) government:

  • transferred officials who prevented riots/arrested Hindu militants
  • delayed calling the army
  • punished people filing police reports
  • instructed officials to not take action to prevent violence

Wilkinson (2004)

in other Indian states:

  • state governments moved swiftly to quash conflict
  • few riots; places with deaths entirely due to police firing on rioters.

Why did Gujarat permit riots to occur while other states did not?

Wilkinson (2004)

Government strategy dictated by elections: will only stop violence if they directly or indirectly depend on votes of people targeted by the riots

This can happen under two sets of conditions:

  1. When many parties compete successfully, minority group voters can determine who wins. Permitting riots that target this group may cost any ruling party victory at the next election.

  2. When only a few parties are competitive, only parties that need the support of minority voters will stop riots against that group (non-ethnic parties stop violence; ethnic parties do not).