INDIA'S FORGOTTEN WAR – blogging naxalism.

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Mapping Naxalism- predictive political ‘science’

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The Only Map Around

everyone loves the only map around

I’m fortunate to have received my master’s in International Relations from the UK where positivism and empiricism doesn’t quite have the hold on the discipline as it does in the US. While using scientific tools to measure and predict social and institutional behaviour are valuable, all too often this type of work veers into the insanely hilarious realm of pseudo-science. Some of the papers I’ve had to read seem to be the cries of a discipline desperate to be taken seriously in a culture which values engineers over artists and numbers over words. Guess what, five line formulas with ‘quantified’ variables representing ephemeral concepts like ‘cultural stability’ or ‘religious conviction’ is inane, silly, and boring as hell… it’s a lot of things, but it ain’t science.

That aside, I do think that there is a paucity of good solid comparative data available on Naxalism in India. In particular, the claim is often made that one of the key key causes of Naxalism are poverty and underdevelopment. The Maoists are strong specifically in those parts of Indian which are the most backward.

Fair enough. This is intuitively plausible. But where is the data which tries to at least support this? Using, say, Maoist attacks/incidents as a proxy for Maoist strength in a cluster of districts and overlaying this with social indicators would be a valuable exercise. It would either support or weaken the counter-insurgency through development argument and would allow for at least some predictive thinking about Naxalite expansion.

This kind of exercise is, of course, flawed. Specifically, are attacks necessarily a proxy for strength? And as every first year undergrad knows, correlation does not equal causality. There could be any number of ’causes’ for Maoist activity… climate, governmental infrastructure, whether the local people like red. In either case, I do think it would useful if it is taken for what it is.

I’m going to start working on this today. It might take a while as anything below state-wide data in India is difficult, if not impossible, to find. Wish me luck! Hopefully something useful will come out of it. Everyone loves a nice map!