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Inequality, Elections, and Communal Riots in India

Bulutgil, H Zeynep; Neeraj, Prasad; (2023) Inequality, Elections, and Communal Riots in India. Journal of Peace Research (In press). Green open access

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How does inequality within and between ethno-religious groups influence the likelihood andfrequencyofcommunalriots?UsingevidencefromIndia,this article findsthat low within-group and high between-group inequality dampens the likelihood and frequency of communal riots. Theoretically, the article suggests that the instrumental logic, which posits that ethno-nationalist politicians use violence to stoke ethnic cleavages and mobilize support, best accounts for this finding. We argue thattobe politically competitive, ethno-nationalist politicians need theirsupporters to identify foremost with their ethnic identity. When inequality within groups is high and/or inequality between groups is low, citizens are less likely to focus on ethnicity as their primary identity. In such contexts, politicians may use communal riots to improve their electoral prospects by reinforcing the salience of ethnicity. Empirically, the article relies on a time-series cross-district analysis of inequality and Hindu-Muslim riotsin India to test the instrumental argument against theoretical alternatives. To illustrate the causal logic, the article also uses the analysis of a communal riot that occurred in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh. Analyzing three aspects of the riot—background conditions, timing, targets of propaganda—we evaluate the different predictions of the instrumental argument. The article concludes with the suggestion that communal riots are distinct from cases of mass violence—such as civil wars, genocide, and ethnic cleansing—and could be conceptualized, along with other types of small-scale political violence, as a separate class of events with their own internal logic.

Type: Article
Title: Inequality, Elections, and Communal Riots in India
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://uk.sagepub.com/en-gb/eur/journal/journal-p...
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
Keywords: Elections, Inequality, Communal Violence, Riots, Political Violence, India
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Political Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10148001
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