Veterans and Ethnic Cleansing in the Partition of India

Steven Wilkinson, the Nilekani Professor of India and South Asian Studies at Yale University, and one of the world’s leading political scientists working on India, will be presenting a paper at the Centre for Policy Research on ‘Veterans and Ethnic Cleansing in the Partition of India’ (by Saumitra Jha (Stanford) and Steven Wilkinson (Yale)). The presentation will take place on Monday 30 May at 11.30 AM. All those who are interested should feel free to attend.


This paper analyses the pattern of ethnic cleansing during and after the partition of India, using new all-India data on both the precipitants of violence and the scale of ethnic cleansing. The paper shows that the pattern of cleansing is in fact much more varied than many accounts suggest. Our main finding is that the levels of cleansing are associated with larger numbers of frontline veterans in a district; ethnic cleansing requires not just the motivation for violence, or the existence of a security crisis, but also military skills and organization. While the link between veterans and violence has been asserted before, especially for Punjab, this is the first paper to demonstrate the relationship empirically, and to show that frontline experience, rather than military training per se, is the crucial factor.

The relationship between veterans and political mobilization arguably has implications for other post-1947 developments in India, such as the Punjab movement, and also perhaps shifts in patterns of central spending in some states.

Author biography:

Steven Wilkinson is Nilekani Professor of India and South Asian Studies at Yale University, where he teaches political science. His books include Votes and Violence: Electoral Competition and Ethnic Riots in India (Cambridge, 2004), which was the co-winner of the Woodrow Wilson award for the best book in political science, and Patrons, Clients and Policies: Patterns of Democratic Accountability and Political Competition(Cambridge 2007), co-edited with Herbert Kitschelt.

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