Research Blog

The MHA and the Emergency

From the Ministry of Home Affairs Annual Report, 1975-76:
“it is only when such activities had crossed all permissible limits that the Government was constrained to declare Emergency on June 2, 1975, as no Government worth the name could allow the country’s security, stability and economy to be imperiled. The nation’s interests demanded firm and decisive action. . . . diffidence and apathy have given place to confidence that we can face our problems successfully if we are disciplined and united” (iii)

BK Nehru is a charmer

BK Nehru held various positions in Indian government, including governor of numerous states and ambassador to the US. I’ve been going back over his notes from the amusingly titled Nice Guys Finish Second on his time in Nagaland. Some choice quotes:

“What I was faced with here was incredibly tiny groups of separate identities with problems so small that I could not grasp why they should be bothered about” (p. 477)

“the demand for Naga independence was nonsense” (p. 503)

“they [Naga rebels] should never forget that they were nothing more than a bunch of ignorant brigands living on money extorted from their own people and the charity of foreign countries” (p. 511)

“the ‘problem’ was in reality the shock inflicted on the Naga social system by the sudden removal of its protected isolation from the modern world which its status as an excluded area had provided it. . . the solution lay in the passage of time” (p. 518)

Sri Lanka electoral turnout, 1988

My excellent researchers Wenyan Deng, Winston Berg, and Cathryn Grothe have done great work tracking down disaggregated electoral turnout/vote shares, Sri Lankan Police and Army fatalities, and a map of polling divisions in Sri Lanka.

As a first-cut of what will come, here’s a map by polling division (the smallest unit we have data on) of electoral turnout in the 1988 election; the darker the color, the higher the turnout. What I’m interested in: those deep South and some Central divisions with very low turnout. Why? In our SLA fatalities data, they also show very very few SLA deaths over the whole course of 1988 (we’ll see what the Police data show – may be different). By contrast, the north continues to be a place where the SLA (and, vastly more so, the IPKF) are mixed up with the LTTE, so turnout and fatalities align more closely.

The JVP in 1988 was not yet targeting the Army, so looking at security force fatalities (with Police caveat!) proves to be a highly unreliable guide to areas of JVP influence in this period. But since the JVP wanted a boycott, turnout becomes a more useful proxy. The right indicator to use for measuring armed group presence/influence/control is likely to be highly contextual – sometimes it will be violent events, but sometimes it won’t.



In defense of military history

This is a valuable piece by Robert Farley. There are many valuable and important ways to study history. But it’s baffling to me that anyone would think that questions like “Why was the Wehrmacht so good at fighting wars?” or “How well did the North Vietnamese Army evade American airpower?” or “What did conscription during Vietnam do to the fighting power of the US Army?” or “What let Japan defeat Russia in 1905?” or numerous other questions are historically trivial or not worth studying. As a historically-minded political scientist, I rely heavily on skilled historians to grapple with questions like these. It’s a shame to see “open hostility” to this kind of research.

Useful articles on China-India-Bhutan stand-off

I’ve found it complicated and often hard to follow, but these recent pieces have been very helpful:

Ankit Panda, “The Political Geography of the India-China Crisis at Doklam,” The Diplomat

Jeff Smith, “High Noon in the Himalayas,” War on the Rocks.

Iskander Rehman, “Hard Men in a Hard Environment,” War on the Rocks [background information on the military balance and strategies].

Taylor Fravel interview on

Sushant Singh, “Motorable track at the centre of tug-of-war with Beijing,” Indian Express.

Interview with Shivshankar Menon in the Hindu.

Rohan Mukherjee, “Sikkim Stand-off: What Explains China’s coercive diplomacy?” Business Standard.

“Sikkim Impasse: What is the India-China-Bhutan Border Stand-Off,” Indian Express.

Manoj Joshi, “On India-China Himalayan face-off, China may just have a case,” Indian Express.