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BREAKING WORLDS: Religion, Law and Citizenship in Majoritarian India; The Story of Assam

  • Author(s): Chatterji, Angana P
  • Desai, Mihir
  • Mander, Harsh
  • Azad, Abdul Kalam
  • et al.
Abstract

BREAKING WORLDS: Religion, Law and Citizenship in Majoritarian India; The Story of Assam chronicles how prejudicial laws and policies are weaponizing citizenship in India today. A pivotal objective of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has been to alter the basis of Indian citizenship. Toward this, the Government of India passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (2019) and determined to commence an all-India National Register of Citizens. While changes to citizenship are scheduled for enforcement across the country, the BJP’s pilot implementation is focused on the state of Assam in the Northeast, with injurious, gendered impact on its sizeable Muslim population. Majoritarian nationalists assert that a large number of Muslims are residing in India “illegally,” and are not Indian. Bangla-descent Muslim inhabitants of Assam, fabricated as “foreigners” and “outsiders,” are the primary targets. They are subject to discrimination, extreme xenophobia, social violence, and new forms of partition. Those who are unable to meet the government's demands to prove their citizenship, or whose documentary evidence is rejected, are faced with the threat of expulsion, exile, and statelessness. If Bangla-descent Muslims of Assam are not Indians, then who are they? This monograph brings into focus how the illiberal citizenship movement is fortifying legal discrimination based on religion. It spotlights the amendments to the law and the implosive situation on the ground. It chronicles the torment of numerous targeted individuals who have been declared “foreigners,” separated from their families and detained, and family members of suicide victims, together with cases before the appellate body. The exclusionary processes directed at Bangla-descent Muslims are emblematic of their loss of agency over life. The “citizenship experiment” signals the onset of absolute nationalism and the advance of an inestimable catastrophe that may conceivably devastate millions of lives.

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