An excerpt from ‘Citizenship Regimes, Law, and Belonging: The CAA and the NRC,’ by Anupama Roy.

By Anupama Roy

While both the NRC and the CAA are part of the ideological landscape of citizenship in contemporary India, they emerged as specific tendencies out of the 2003 amendment in the Citizenship Act. The insertion of the category “illegal migrant” through an amendment in 2003 became a hinge point in the trajectory of the law. Both the NRC and the CAA – one through the judicial route and the other through the legislative route – offered two distinct ways of identifying Indian citizens.

Following the rules laid down in the Citizenship Act as amended in 2003, the NRC provides the modalities for the preparation of a register of Indian citizens through practices of identification and enumeration. In the case of Assam the procedures evolved under the direction of the Supreme Court by the NRC Commissioner for Assam, made citizenship contingent on conditions of descent, affirmed through papers that were considered valid by the state.

Ironically, in the case of Assam the NRC became a register of citizens of Assamese origin, invoking a category of hyphenated citizenship, not part of the legal vocabulary of citizenship in India. At the same time, the process became one where the purpose of the NRC became one of sifting out “illegal migrants” – an unfinished agenda in the promise made by the Assam Accord – rather than preparation of a register of citizens. Indeed, the discursive frameworks surrounding the NRC, the vocabulary of the debate around it, and the petitions before the Supreme Court in the course of its preparation in Assam, focussed on the most effective way of identification of illegal migrants by strengthening the Foreigners Tribunals, and addressing the conundrum of putting those who were identified as such in detention camps.

The NRC was thus simultaneously about affirming citizenship through descent and eliminating illegal migrants. The CAA is embedded in the idea of national citizenship with religion as the principle for making a distinction between those from among illegal migrants who could be exempted from penal action and made eligible for Indian citizenship through naturalisation. These two principles defining citizenship have become conjoined in the contemporary context, in the citizenship practices of the BJP which draws its provenance from the ideology of Hindutva.

This story was originally published in Read the full story here.