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Using a novel state-level panel data set for the period 2009-18 on the incidence of hate crimes in India, and a difference in difference (DD) approach, this paper investigates the causal impact of the right-wing, Hindu nationalist BJP’s win in the 2014 national elections on hate crimes against religious minorities. Using 2009-13 (pre-election) and 2014-18 (post-election) as the before and after periods, I estimate a standard DD model, where the treatment group consists of states where BJP won the largest share of popular votes in 2014, to get an initial estimate of the causal impact. I strengthen this result with a treatment intensity approach where BJP’s vote share in 2014 functions as the treatment intensity. I instrument it with BJP’s vote share in the previous national elections in 2009 to estimate the causal impact. I supplement the linear models with quasi-Poisson regressions to take account of the count data nature of the incidence of hate crimes. All approaches show that BJP’s electoral victory in 2014 caused an increase in the incidence of hate crimes against religious minorities. I investigate three plausible mechanisms that might generate the result: laxity of state-level law enforcement; economic competition between religious groups; role of social media. I find evidence that weakening of state-level law enforcement is the key mechanism driving the rise in anti-minority hate crimes. This paper contributes to contemporary studies of the adverse impact of rising ethno-nationalist populism on marginalized social groups by investigating the case of India.
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