Textures and Layers of Belonging: Who is a Citizen?
Swaha Swetambara Das
CITIZENSHIP REGIMES, LAW, AND BELONGING: THE CAA AND THE NRC by Anupama Roy Oxford University Press, 2022, 270 pp., ₹1495.00
May 2023, volume 47, No 5

Who belongs to the nation? And, how do we become members of a state? The responses to such questions are often contested. These contestations have led to violent conflicts, and therefore, citizenship laws were created to determine the membership to a political community. In Citizenship Regimes, Law, and Belonging: The CAA and the NRC, Anupama Roy examines the form and content of recent changes to citizenship regimes and laws in India by locating the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA 2019), the National Register of Citizens (NRC), and the Land Border Agreement (LBA 2015) in their historical, ideological, and political contexts. Consequently, the research for this book was based on field studies, examination of the union parliamentary debates as well as the Constituent Assembly Debates, case laws, government reports, and archival material. An understanding based on the bare provisions of the law, bereft of its ‘political and ideological embeddedness’, would be incomplete. For laws and regimes are born out of specific contexts, and they create specific effects and establish particular power relations.

The power of the state to determine one’s membership to a political community and the people’s power to challenge state power are the two kinds of powers that Roy alludes to at the beginning of the book. These allusions are elaborated with reference to two historical moments. The first moment was the nonviolent people’s resistance in the South African province of Transvaal led by Gandhi against state power.

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