Sons of the Soil

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“Sons-of-the-Soil” and Local Insurgencies

ABSTRACT

One explanation for localized armed conflicts is competition between the original inhabitants of an area and more recent settlers, including both migrants from the same country and from abroad. As of yet, this explanation has not been thoroughly scrutinized, partly due to the lack of disaggregated data on violence needed to properly examine the hypothesis. Hence, this paper applies the idea of such “sons-of-the-soil” dynamics to an empirical investigation of local insurgency violence in Northeast India

Northeast India has seen multiple insurgencies that fit the typical description of a “sons-ofthe-soil” conflict. T hat larger proportions of people that can be considered as non-indigenous to an area indeed.

Introduction
Migration both within countries and across borders are sometimes claimed to be linked to increased competition at the local level, sometimes turning into violent insurgencies or communal conflicts. Weiner (1978) termed conflicts between the original inhabitants of an area and more recent settlers as “sons-of-the-soil” conflicts. The term suggests that those who are native to a given territory see themselves as prioritized in terms of access to the resources of that territory; thus the competition following from migration, especially if largescale, may create anti-foreigner sentiments among the native population.

Fearon and Laitin
(2011) estimate that as many as one-third of ethnic civil wars can be labeled “sons-of-thesoil” conflicts. The sheer number of such conflicts in combination with a lack of attention in the civil war and ethnic conflict literature strongly motivate further study of the conditions and mechanisms involved. However, with cross-country statistical analysis, the impact of migration and the dynamics involved are difficult to get at. This is not only due to the fact that international migrants often settle in border areas and hence make patterns and numbers vary significantly within countries. Also, as noted by e.g. Fearon and Laitin (2011), “sons-ofthe- soil” conflicts are often linked to population movements within countries, a dynamic that country-level analyses miss. Thus, this paper aims to examine the role of “sons-of-the-soil” dynamics using a disaggregated within-country analysis. Such analysis makes it possible to assess whether areas with higher proportion of international immigrants and other settlers are more likely to experience local violent events.

make that area increasingly likely to experience violent conflict events. Also, larger number of migrants from abroad are associated with an heightened risk of conflict events. However, the results indicate that this only relates to migration from Bangladesh

Northeast India: A Background
The area commonly referred to as Northeast India comprises seven states: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura.2 The region itself is as diverse as India as a whole; its total population of about 39 million comprises almost 500 different ethnic groups and more than 400 languages (Bhaumik, 2009). The area is more or less cut off from the rest of India, both geographically and culturally. The outer boundaries of the area are predominantly adjacent to Burma/Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and China; only a small stretch of territory is connected to India proper. During the British colo- nial period, the area was never fully colonized but by and large left to manage its own affairs. At independence in 1947, India annexed the territory, which started off a period of secessionist aspirations active to this day. The Northeast has been, and continues to be, the arena for the most protracted secessionist insurgencies in India; indeed, these insurgencies are among the most prolonged in the whole of Asia. The first insurrection started in Nagaland, followed by...
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