Violent Layers: Rethinking Electoral Violence in India
Keywords:communal violence, democratic institutions, electoral violence, India, political culture, securitization, Political Science, Political Economy, Comparative Politics, Sociology
This article examines the multi-layered nature of electoral violence in India. At one level, the violence behaves like a barrier by excluding certain actors from political participation. At another level the violence functions like a filter - recognizing, accentuating, or creating those social meanings that have electoral implications. Hence, instead of looking exclusively at its strategic, structural, or cultural dimensions, this paper looks at the simultaneous performance of electoral violence as a social process, a political strategy, and an institutional behaviour. To demonstrate the non-autonomous character of each of these levels, this article explores the limitations of using communal violence as an electoral strategy, highlights the unintended effects of securitization on voter turnout and political competition, and probes into the various unequal social structures that reproduce violent elections in India. It also offers an alternative perspective to studying electoral violence by looking at its historical development vis-à-vis the radicalization of a society’s political culture. On the basis of this multidimensional analysis, the paper concludes that electoral violence can be structurally induced even by well-consolidated electoral institutions and thus, cannot be regarded as simply a breakdown of democratic institutions.
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