The decline in (most) kinds of violence in India: Ahuja and Kapur

Amit Ahuja and Devesh Kapur have edited a hugely important volume, just out from Oxford, about patterns of violence and state policy in India. I was lucky to be asked to write a chapter of it on internal security in comparative perspective, exploring the “de facto” rules of Indian state response to a wide variety of armed actors and how those resemble or diverge from other cases.

One of the most striking findings of their book is the dramatic decline in violence in recent decades in India. I’d noted some of this decline in the insurgency context in this 2020 Carnegie Endowment piece on the “Triumph of the State?” (pointing in part to an under-appreciated “internal security buildup” since the 1990s), but hadn’t realized how far-reaching the drop is across numerous other indicators. Yet as Ahuja and Kapur emphasize, the nature of violence has also shifted, with vigilantism taking on major symbolic and political importance. Arguments and theories built around data from the 1960s-1990s period clearly need to be seriously rethought for the post-2000 period.

The BBC’s Soutik Biswas has written a thoughtful overview of the findings and possible interpretations here. Read the article and buy the book.

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