Citizenship Struggles and Practices in India: Legality and Beyond

Home/ Citizenship Struggles and Practices in India: Legality and Beyond
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveNA4

Semester and Year Offered: Monsoon semester 2019

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr. Anushka Singh

Email of course coordinator: anushka[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: None

Aim: The course aims to familiarize the students with citizenship debates both within and beyond the conventional lens of looking at citizenship as a legally recognized right. The attempt is to connect the theoretical literature produced on citizenship with empirical realties of citizenship practices while bringing in issues of contemporary concern such as migration, national register, surveillance etc.

Course Outcomes:

On successful completion of this course, students will be able to

  1. Demonstrate a knowledge of legal provisions related to citizenship in India
  2. Demonstrate a knowledge of key historical and contemporary developments that have shaped citizenship policies and practices in India
  3. Participate and contribute through academic argument and research in areas concerning cross-border migration, refugee crisis, identity documentation, etc.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

The customary lens of looking at citizenship as a legal status invariably gives rise to a discursive space where struggles around legal recognition bring to fore the differentially envisaged notions of the political. One the many ways thus in which the citizenship debates manifest is the contest of the political with and over the legal. The struggles for citizenship towards the realization of its democratic potentials stands entwined with the process of constant derecognition and segregation in order to mark the distinction between the citizen and the other. This course tries to examine this juxtaposition of the citizen with the other where law emerges as the arbitrator in the liminal spaces of contest for and omission from citizenship.

The relationship between the citizen and the other, far from being that of simple exclusion, manifests in form of diverse mutually constitutive binaries where the category of citizen stands distinct from the criminal, the migrant, the refugee, the suspect, the infiltrator, etc. Each of the categories occupying the liminal space of citizenship is subjected to specific gazes of law where the nature of the legal gaze defines its political existence. This course in context of the citizenship discourse in India studies the citizen and the other. While the course borrows from the theoretical literature from the west as well, the thematic is specifically examined in context of India with the help of a historical perspective, jurisprudential insights and the Indian scholarship on citizenship looking at both its evolution and contemporary forms.

Module I

Understanding Citizenship- theoretical frameworks

The beginning module addresses the question of how to look at the concept of citizenship in its oscillation between a legal status and a terrain of political struggles. The modules revisits the established works on the theme drawing both from political theory and political processes to advance the claim of citizenship being an essentially contested concept. The learnings of this module serve as methodological tools to examine the debates in the following modules.

3 weeks


  • T. H. Marshall, 1950, Citizenship and Social Class, in Citizenship and Social Class and Other Essays, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-85 (selected extracts)
  • G Poggi, 2003, Citizens and States, Retrospect and Prospect, in Quentin Skinner and Bo Stråth (eds), States and Citizens- History, Theory, Prospects, CUP, pp. 39-49.
  • Anupama Roy, 2013, Making Citizenship Familiar, in Gendered Citizenship, Historical and Conceptual Explorations, Orient BlackSwan, pp. 1- 42.
  • Iris Marion Young, 1989, Polity and Group Difference: A critique of the Ideal of Universal Citizenship, Ethics, Vol. 99, No. 2, pp. 250-274
  • Niraja Gopal Jayal, 2013, Introduction, in Citizenship and its Discontents: An Indian History, Cambridge & London: Harvard University Press, pp. 1- 24.
  • Anupama Roy, 2016, We the People, Citizenship in the Indian Constitution, in Citizenship in India, Oxford India Short Introductions, OUP, Pp. 58- 113

Module II

Commencement of the process of othering: conflicts over full membership

This module traces the idea of the mutually constitutive binary construct of the citizen and the other while placing it within the idea of statelessness in political philosophy, the engagement with the question of moral versus legal rights and the location of the nationality question in the citizenship debate. The module then looks at the legal-institutional processes specifically in context of India that render the (in)visibility of the ‘other’ and its lightness within the discourse of rights and justice. It looks at the category of the liminal citizens in India emerging from the shadow of partition such as the displaced persons, the abducted persons, the alien women etc. and the framework of citizenship laid down adjacently.

2 weeks


  • John Hoffman, 2004, Citizenship Beyond State, Sage, pp. 17-30; pp. 49- 62.
  • Seyla Benhabib, 2004, ‘The right to have rights’: Hannah Arendt on the contradictions of the nation-state, in The Rights of Others, Aliens, Residents, Citizens, CUP, pp. 49-70.
  • Ranabir Samaddar, 2015, The Violent Foundations of Citizenship, in Samir Kumar Das (ed) Democracy and Violence, OUP,
  • Niraja Gopal Jayal, 2013, Legal Citizenship and the Long Shadow of the Partition, in Citizenship and its Discontents: An Indian History, Cambridge & London: Harvard University Press, pp. 51-80.
  • Anupama Roy, 2010, The Citizenship Act, 1955, Liminal Citizenship at the Commencement of the Republic, Mapping Citizenship in India, OUP, pp. 33- 91 (selected parts).
  • The Citizenship Act, 1955

Module III

Figure of the Migrant- the Ambiguous, the Illegal and the ‘desirable’

While the previous module focusses on the liminal categories at the dawn of independence in India allowed compromised and unequal legal identification, this module focuses on the increasing impulses of legal differentiation within citizenship discourse manifested in relation to the migrants. The dominant paradigm in relation to the migrants has found reflection in the institutional responses towards them ranging between peripheral recognition, de-recognition, and illegalization, alongside the corresponding political discourse of criminalization and even the threat of deportation. The modules looks at the figures of the Chitmahals, the Chakma, the Rohingyas, etc. An ideological shift away from the dominant paradigm however, has been witnessed in the impulse within citizenship discourse to recognize categories of migrants based on origin, descent and effectively religion. Thus, the latter part of the module enters the debate over the citizenship categories of Persons of Indian Origin, Overseas Citizen of India and the current tensions around the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016.

3 weeks


  • Anupama Roy, 2016, Ambivalent Citizens, in Citizenship in India, Oxford India Short Introductions, OUP, pp. 115- 154.
  • Anupama Roy, 2016, Ambivalence of Citizenship in Assam, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 51, Issue No. 26-27.
  • Sanjib Baruah, 2009, The Partition’s Long Shadow: The Ambiguities of Citizenship in Assam’, Citizenship Studies, Vol. 13, Issue 6.
  • Nasreen Chowdhory, 2018, State Formation, Marginality and Belonging: Contextualizing Rights of Refugees, in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, in Refugees, Citizenship and Belonging in South Asia, Springer, pp. 43-71.
  • Akhil Ranjan Datta, 2018, National Register of Citizens Political Destiny of Immigrants in Assam, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 53, Issue No. 8.
  • The Illegal Migrants Determination by Tribunals Act, 1983 and Sarbanand Sonowal vs. The Union of India
  • NHRC v. State of Arunachal Pradesh & Anr, 1996
  • Anupama Roy, 2010, Blood and Belonging, in Mapping Citizenship in India, OUP, pp. 135-160.
  • Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016
  • Mohsin Alam Bhat, 2019, The Constitutional Case against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 54, Issue No. 3.

Additional readings:

  • B. S. Chimni, B. S. 2005, Outside the Bounds of Citizenship: The Status of Aliens, Illegal Migrants and Refugees in India, in Rajeev Bhargava and Helmut Reifeld (eds.) Civil Society, Public Sphere and Citizenship, New Delhi: Sage Publications, pp. 277-313.
  • Ujjwal Kumar Singh, 2018, National Human Rights Commission of India- The ‘Inside–Outside’ Body, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 53, No 5.
  • Ranabir Samaddar, 2018, The NRC Process and the Spectre of Statelessness in India, The Wire (25 October 2018)
  • Rohingya Refugees Fact-Finding Report, 2018, Human Rights Law Network

Module IV

Security discourse and the Suspect Citizen

The security discourse as an entry into the theme of citizenship destabilizes the binary between the citizen and the other as the security imperative unfolds a parallel process of othering within the category of the entrenched citizen where the lines of otherness are drawn along the law-abiding good citizen as distinct from the dissident suspect citizen. The dissident citizen then becomes the subject of the state’s panopticon. While the governing gaze on the liminal zone of citizenship stands intact subjecting the peripheral citizens and the illegals to increasing surveillance, their semblance of existence with the suspect citizens adds further complexities to citizenship debates.

2 weeks


  • John Torpey, 2000, Coming and Going: On the State Monopolisation of the Legitimate ‘Means of Movement’, in The Invention of the Passport: Surveillance, Citizenship and the State, CUP, pp. 4-20.
  • Ujjwal Kumar Singh, 2014, Surveillance Regimes in Contemporary India, in F Davis, N McGarrity and G Williams (eds), States of Surveillance: Counter Terrorism and Comparative Constitutionalism, Routledge, pp. 42-58.
  • Btihaj Ajana, 2012, Biometric Citizenship, Citizenship Studies, Vol.16, No.7
  • Iris Marion Young, 2003, The Logic of Masculinist Protection: Reflections on the Current Security State. Signs, Vol 29, No 1, pp. 1-26.
  • House Of Lords, Select Committee on the Constitution, 2nd Report of Session 2008–09, Surveillance: Citizens and the State, Volume I: Report (Selected parts)

Module V

Politics of the Governed and its consequences

This module moving beyond the institutional-legal framework of citizenship, looks at the citizenship practices from below and their politics of survival bordering and often occupying the zones of illegality yet being jurisgenerative. Advancing the idea of insurgent citizenship, this module focuses on the myriad struggles and mobilizations carried out by those on the margins of the citizenship entitlements.

2 weeks


  • James Holston, 2008, Citizenship Made Strange, Insurgent Citizenship, Princeton, Princeton University Press, pp. 3-37.
  • Seyla Benhabib, 2004, Democratic iterations: the local, the national, and the global, in The Rights of Others, Aliens, Residents, Citizens, CUP, pp. 171- 211.
  • Partha Chaterjee, 2004, Populations and Political Society, The Politics of the Governed: Reflections on Popular Politics in Most of the World, Columbia University Press, pp. 27- 52.
  • Veena Das, 2011, State, Citizenship, and the Urban Poor, Citizenship Studies, Vol.15, No. 3-4
  • Tarangini Sriraman, 2018, Refugees and their Displaced Documents of Identity, in In Pursuit of Proof, A History of Identification Documents in India, OUP, pp. 90- 162 (selected parts)

Assessment Details with weights:

Response essay


Mid-term exam


Class test


End term presentation


Class participation



Reading List:

Provided above with module descriptions