Militancy among Minorities: Explaining Political Violence

When does militancy arise among marginalized minorities? How can states suppress such violence? Working at the intersection of international relations and comparative politics, IAST’s Saurabh Pant uses quantitative methods and game theory to study the conditions that lead to the out-break of armed struggle in divided societies.

Drawing on fieldwork in India, Saurabh’s 2018 working paper entitled ‘Explaining Militancy among Minorities’ reveals an interesting empirical puzzle regarding the different levels of militant mobilization in minority groups and illustrates an important, overlooked dynamic. “Minorities often face the threat of indiscriminate retaliation if any violent transgressions occur from within their community. Low levels of protection from this threat would incentivize minority members to police their group to prevent militancy emerging in their community. The strategic tensions involved in this protection-group policing dynamic occur within the minority group and between the minority group and the state.”

Saurabh’s game-theoretic model investigates how state capacity and state willingness can influence minority militancy.

Counterintuitively, his model shows how a low-capacity state can be less conducive to the emergence of militant minorities than a high-capacity state. Insights from the model can help to explain differences in militant mobilization between Muslims in India and Western Europe and across minority groups within India.

While the above research establishes the conditions for the onset of militancy among marginalized minorities, another paper explains how the state can then suppress militancy if such conditions are present in a country. In ‘Winning Hearts and Minds in Civil Wars: Governance, Leadership Change, and Support for Violent Groups in Iraq’, Saurabh and his coauthors show how support for militancy in Iraq is not explained by primordial sectarian animosity but by perceptions of governance.


Extract from the IAST Connect #14, Spring 2019

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