A Biography of Citizenship in India
Radhika Mongia
CITIZENSHIP AND ITS DISCONTENTS: AN INDIAN HISTORY by Niraja Gopal Jayal Permanent Black, 2013, 366 pp., 795
September 2013, volume 37, No 9

Niraja Gopal Jayal’s Citizenship and Its Discontents: An Indian History presents what she variously calls a history of ideas, a genealogy, or a biography of citizenship in India. Standing as the proxy for ‘the Indian people’, citizenship is the tragic protagonist of her story. Every story of citizenship is, necessarily, also a story of the state. In Jayal’s account, the state in India, particularly in its postcolonial iterations, is the villain, continually thwarting the possibilities for the emergence of a robust citizenship. Whether it is its abysmal record as reflected in the Human Development Index, its somnambulant approach to providing universal primary education, a developmental agenda inextricably tied to predatory capitalism, the leakages and corruption that characterize recent welfare schemes, or a bureaucratic machinery that thrives on inefficiency, Jayal’s critique of the post-Independence state is unflinching and well documented, ensuring that one cannot characterize it as polemic. Her account is a welcome riposte to those convinced that India is rising, if not shining.

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