This PoLAR Online series, India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), is edited by Syantani Chatterjee and Natasha Raheja.
The controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was signed into law by the Hindu nationalist BJP-led Government of India on December 12, 2019 amid nationwide protests opposing the act. The CAA, the sixth amendment to the 1955 Citizenship Act, expedites Indian citizenship for Hindus and other non-Muslim minorities (Parsi, Sikh, Jain, Christian, and Buddhist) from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Hailing these minorities from the neighboring Muslim-majority countries as persecuted religious minorities, the act enables access to Indian citizenship on religious grounds. While the bill passed both houses of the Parliament with a clear majority, protests against the CAA had begun well before this bill was passed. Neither the CAA nor its opposition can be seen in isolation. Local and Indigenous forms of resistance have had long roots in Kashmir and the Northeast in the face of sustained Indian occupation, which intensified with the revocation of Article 370 and the administration of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam. The sustained #NoCAA protests are part of a complex movement soldering different sections of the Indian civil society into a movement of resistance in the face of a seemingly unfazed governmental crackdown, police brutality against students, and state-sanctioned, anti-Muslim violence.
In this series, we emphasize disjuncture to collectively ask how citizenship persists as both an ideal of formal equality as well as a mechanism for the elaboration of social inequity. Although the concept of citizenship is premised on liberal ideals of enfranchisement, the rise of xenophobic nationalisms globally has revealed the very notion of citizenship to be an exclusionary category of belonging. Scholars have thus theorized citizenship as inherent with risk and fault lines (Petryna and Follis 2015), hinging on precarious claims to relative belonging (Geschiere et al 2006). In the context of India, contributors examine both the contradictions in the theoretical underpinnings of citizenship that set up binaries of citizen/non-citizen and insider/outsider, as well as the proliferation of documentary regimes that try to identify who is NOT a citizen. In conversation with scholarship that questions universal conceptualizations of citizenship which foreground the individual as the locus of rights and recognition (Chatterjee 2004), essays engage anthropological approaches to understanding how people struggle for legal recognition and social belonging as members of larger collectivities (Jayal 2013). If citizenship is a set of practices that shape and define membership in a given political community (Lazar 2013), the series asks, what practices and modes of association are taken up by people who are excluded from recognition?
Syantani Chatterjee and Natasha Raheja
Ghazal Asif and Natasha Raheja
Brian A. Horton
Mir Fatimah Kanth
Maya Ratnam, Sarthak Bagchi, Mary Ann Chacko
Sarbani Sharma and Aditi Saraf