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Hearts and Minds: What explains the intensity of insurgent violence in India’s NER?

Kumar, Himangshu (2020): Hearts and Minds: What explains the intensity of insurgent violence in India’s NER?

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India’s Northeastern region (NER) is defined by some of the world’s longest-running armed insurgencies, and a patchwork of special institutions defined on ethnic/tribal lines. Using an assembly constituency level panel dataset from 1994-2017, this paper examines the demographic, political and economic factors associated with high insurgent violence in the NER. The findings show that electing politicians with criminal records was associated with the lowest number of casualties in insurgent violence. In keeping with the counter-insurgency maxim of ’hearts and minds’, higher water and electricity is associated with mildly lower intensity of violence. However, a 1 percent increase in the percentage of young, unemployed, college-educated males is associated with 25 percent higher casualties. I then focus on a case where an ethnic group secured an autonomous territory within an Indian state in 2003, under the terms of a peace accord between insurgents and the government. Using a geographic regression discontinuity design, I show that arrangements for ethnic autonomy and land rights reduce economic activity (measured by nightlights); but the gap reduced over from 1996 to 2017.

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