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Abstract

The health, economic and security impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic are playing out in volatile and potentially catastrophic ways, especially in conflict-affected states. The disease arrived in India during a period of heightened public protests, riots and religious polarization. In this paper, I document early evidence of the causal impact of Covid-19 proliferation on conflict risks across Indian districts. I use text-mining of conflict event descriptions to define two new measures of religious and pandemic-related conflict in addition to the standard measures of real-time conflict events provided by The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). Event study analysis indicates a sustained decline in conflict after the first Covid-19 case is reported, driven by a decrease in religious conflict and public protests. However, I also document a countervailing increase in the probability of Covid-19 related conflict. Poor districts and districts with low health infrastructure in particular demonstrate an increase in riots. These real-time findings are of first-order importance for policymakers and public administrators straddling a narrowing stringency corridor between maintaining public health and tolerance of containment policies.

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