Citizenship and Its Discontents: An Indian History

In This Review

Citizenship and Its Discontents: An Indian History
By Niraja Gopal Jayal
Harvard University Press, 2013
376 pp. $45.00

Who is a citizen, and what rights does that status entail? These questions are especially tough for India, with its history of communal divisions, diasporas, and refugee inflows. Muslims who fled to Pakistan at the time of the partition and then came back had a harder time getting citizenship than Hindus in the same situation. Some state governments have refused to implement citizenship rights for certain tribal populations, even though their rights are recognized by the national government. Since India does not recognize citizenship based on birth on Indian soil, some refugee communities have remained stateless for several generations. At the other end of the spectrum, wealthy foreigners of Indian ethnicity can purchase the status of Overseas Citizen of India. The country’s complex system of quotas and entitlements at once privileges and stigmatizes the poor, members of lower castes, and tribal populations. Jayal argues that India’s history as a society built on the exclusionary logics of castes and tribes continues to clash with its self-image as an inclusive democracy.

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