Measuring the Burden of Conflict Through Local Newspapers: Findings from the Manipur Micro-level Insurgency Events Database of 2008–2009
The state of Manipur, located in the Northeastern region of India has witnessed an extremely complex insurgency as well as decades of civil strife beginning in the mid-1960s. There are currently 35 ethnically organized active armed groups present in the state. While violence occurs on an everyday basis no attempt was made to measure its direction, volume or intensity. As a consequence very little information exists on the civilian consequences of the insurgency, as the violence was assumed to be primarily between armed state and non-state actors. An attempt was therefore made to disaggregate data on incidences of insurgency related violence by creating a micro-level historical record of 2538 events for the years 2008–2009. The database was created by recording insurgency related events that were reported in Manipuri newspapers over a two-year period. The findings indicate that civilian non-combatants bear a disproportionate burden of the armed conflict in the state of Manipur, especially in terms of injuries. The data also reveals that a majority of civilian casualties occurred as a result of deliberate actions by “unknown” perpetrators. The database documents 1010 fatalities and 416 injury victims in the years of study, an estimate much higher than official records for the same years. The paper underscores the value of the systematic monitoring of all available local newspapers in conflict zones for reports on violence as a means of analyzing the societal burdens of violence. The paper argues that the monitoring of local media sources provide a useful mechanism for the monitoring of casualty data in regions experiencing protracted localized insurgencies; especially, where violence is underreported at the national and international level.
KeywordsNortheastern India Manipur insurgency Casualty recording Casualty data Regional newspapers
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