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Citizenship and Its Discontents

Citizenship and Its Discontents: An Indian History

Niraja Gopal Jayal
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 346
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  • Book Info
    Citizenship and Its Discontents
    Book Description:

    This book considers how the civic ideals embodied in India’s constitution are undermined by exclusions based on social and economic inequalities, sometimes even by its own strategies of inclusion. Once seen by Westerners as a political anomaly, India today is the case study that no global discussion of democracy and citizenship can ignore.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06758-5
    Subjects: Political Science, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    The twenty-five-year-old daughter of refugee parents petitions a court to become the first Tibetan to obtain Indian citizenship. Laborers in the countryside agitate to secure their newly legislated right to manual work at a minimum wage for a hundred days a year. A Dalit woman wrests the right to hoist the national flag at the office of the panchayat she heads on Independence Day. On Facebook and Twitter, a few hundred thousand people “Like” or “Follow” the anticorruption campaign led by a seventy-four-year-old activist. These are just a few of the many ways in which citizenship is claimed and performed...

  4. PART ONE Status

    • 1 The Subject-Citizen: A Colonial Anomaly
      (pp. 27-50)

      In 1906, the Rev. John Morrison of the Church of Scotland in Calcutta made the startling claim that citizenship was one of the most important political ideas to emerge in India in the nineteenth century, adding cautiously that it was still far from achieving the stage reached by British opinion in 1832.

      On the face of it, to speak of citizenship in an empire is conceptually implausible, legally dubious, and historically anachronistic. Subjects of an empire can scarcely be properly described as citizens, for a political community of free individuals would appear to be a necessary precondition for citizenship. This...

    • 2 Legal Citizenship and the Long Shadow of the Partition
      (pp. 51-81)

      In the summer of 2004, following a decisive electoral victory, there was a very real possibility of the Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi—the Italian-born widow of the former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi—being sworn in as prime minister of India. However, as the nation held its collective breath, Gandhi announced that she would not join the government, much less lead it, but would continue as president of the party and an ordinary member of Parliament. The backdrop to this decision was an ongoing hostile campaign against her “foreign origin” led by the Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, but resonating...

    • 3 Aspirational Citizenship: Migrants and Emigrants
      (pp. 82-106)

      The defining of citizenship is inevitably an act preceded by a circumscribing of borders. In the process of delineating the territorial boundaries of the political community of citizens, every state implicitly creates a default category of those who live outside these boundaries and are by definition beyond the pale of membership. The unprecedented scale of global migration in recent times—including skilled and unskilled economic migrants but also refugees fleeing political or ethnic persecution—has threatened this congruence between membership and borders by bringing many such outsiders into the territorial space of the nation. Over time, as refugees and migrants...

  5. PART TWO Rights

    • 4 Pedagogies of Duty, Protestations of Rights
      (pp. 109-135)

      Important as it is, the legal status of citizenship is in itself vacuous and connotes nothing. It is the threshold condition for the enjoyment of the rights and entitlements from which it derives meaning and significance. Indeed, citizenship is uniquely defined and expressed through such rights as well as through the discharge of civic obligations. That claims to legal citizenship frequently have an instrumental quality—whether, as we saw in the previous chapter, in the claims of the migrant communities in Rajasthan or the Overseas Citizens of India [OCI is a designated legal status that comes with a passport-like document]...

    • 5 The Unsocial Compact
      (pp. 136-162)

      The discourse on citizenship in the first two decades of the twentieth century was, as the last chapter showed, largely concerned with demonstrating to colonial power the gap between the promise and the performance of the civil and political rights of subjects. Up until this time the contrast between formal and substantive rights was no more than a contrast between the formal availability and the substantive unavailability of civil and political rights. From the late 1920s onward, this came to be rearticulated as a contrast between the formal, construed as civil and political, and the substantive, interpreted as social and...

    • 6 Social Citizenship in Neoliberal Times
      (pp. 163-196)

      What, if anything, can citizenship mean in the presence of deep social inequalities? Even as citizenship professes equality as its foundational essence, we know it to be the deceitful purveyor of a misleading promise, a sentiment famously captured in Anatole France’s wry quip about the majestic equality of the law forbidding “rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”¹ Citizenship appears as either Janus-faced or internally conflicted as it plays these two fundamentally opposing roles: committing to undermine inequality, on the one hand, and presenting inequality as legitimate, on the other....

  6. PART THREE Identity

    • 7 Genealogies of Mediated Citizenship
      (pp. 199-228)

      In chapter 4, we encountered the colonial view that, as an insufficiently individuated social order divided by language, caste, and religion, Indian society could scarcely yield a conception of citizenship, much less individuals who could be citizens. This assumption appears to have enjoyed wide acceptance as a descriptively accurate understanding of the nature of Indian social diversity, so that the validity of the premise was seldom called into question. Such questioning of this assumption as occurred in different strands of nationalist thinking was motivated largely by a defensive impulse to establish that these were, in one way or another, communities...

    • 8 Passages from Backwardness to Citizenship
      (pp. 229-253)

      In June 1950, a Brahmin woman called Champakam Dorairajan appealed to the Madras High Court asking for the protection of her fundamental rights under the Constitution. Her specific plea was for the Court to strike down a government order by which admissions into medical colleges in Madras were allocated between different caste groups, implying that she—as a Brahmin—would not be eligible for admission. The case went on appeal to the Supreme Court which struck down the communal quota.¹ It was subsequently found that Dorairajan had not in fact applied for admission. More importantly, this was the case that...

    • 9 The Future of the Civic Community
      (pp. 254-272)

      In a country where the twin forces of democratic politics and a new economic paradigm have mediated a fundamental social transformation, the enduring tension between universal and group-differentiated citizenship appears baffling. The recent challenges to the project of universal citizenship suggest not merely the fragility of the constitutional settlement, but also the ossification of a social and political consensus, beginning in the late nineteenth century, that citizens enter the public sphere preconstituted by their identities, and that mediation by groups so defined constitutes the legitimate form of interaction between citizen and state. The continuities with the colonial era indicate that...

  7. Epilogue
    (pp. 273-284)

    A history of ideas in twentieth-century India must be, among other things, the history of a new idea, citizenship. Unlike in western antiquity, the rubric of citizenship, either as performance or as equality, was historically alien to Indian experience. There was no antecedent tradition of citizenship that could be excavated or invoked in the way in which chronicles of a national past were produced in impassioned response to the colonial accusation that Indians lacked a history. Even the invention of a history of local democracy and village republics¹—pace Henry Maine and Karl Marx—was pallid and lacking in conviction....

  8. Notes
    (pp. 285-328)
  9. References
    (pp. 329-350)
  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 351-356)
  11. Index
    (pp. 357-366)