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"Unfinished Business": Ethnic Complementarities and the Political Contagion of Peace and Conflict in Gujarat

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  • Saumitra Jha

Abstract

I examine how the historical legacies of inter-ethnic complementarity and competition influence contemporary electoral competition and its effects on patterns of ethnic violence. Using local comparisons within Gujarat, a single Indian state known for its non-violent local traditions yet also for widespread ethnic pogroms in 2002, I provide evidence that while towns with close votes in the preceding state elections do predict an increased incidence of ethnic riots, these effects are diminished in medieval port towns that historically enjoyed exogenous inter-ethnic complementarities. Furthermore, unlike other towns where pre-riot electoral competitiveness coincided with historic inter-ethnic competition and where the ruling party reaped well-targeted electoral dividends from the riots, medieval port constituencies exhibited a relative vote swing of more than seven percentage points against that party. These rendered medieval port constituencies marginal constituencies in future elections, which also saw less ethnic violence. I interpret these results as consistent with the existence of a fundamentally conditional, yet magnifying interaction between electoral competition and local institutions in generating incentives for ethnic violence. Where marginal electoral constituencies coincide with or reflect pre-existing inter-ethnic economic competition, politicians have both enhanced local and state-wide incentives to foster ethnic mobilization and violence. On the other hand, when the focus of electoral competition shifts to constituencies enjoying complementary norms and organizations supporting local inter-ethnic tolerance, this can reduce state-wide incentives for ethnic violence.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19203.

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Date of creation: Jul 2013
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19203

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  1. Easterly, William & Levine, Ross, 1997. "Africa's Growth Tragedy: Policies and Ethnic Divisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1203-50, November.
  2. Jha, Saumitra, 2008. "Trade, Institutions and Religious Tolerance: Evidence from India," Research Papers, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business 2004, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  3. Anirban Mitra & Debraj Ray, 2013. "Implications of an Economic Theory of Conflict: Hindu-Muslim Violence in India," NBER Working Papers 19090, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Grosjean, Pauline, 2011. "The institutional legacy of the Ottoman Empire: Islamic rule and financial development in South Eastern Europe," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 1-16, March.
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