Transformations in Citizenship in India: 2000 – 2020

Engages with the question of Citizenship as an issue of increasing importance in India.

This course uses as its launchpad the astonishing political events of late 2019 andearly 2020, when India’s Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), leading to major political protests, riots and what have been widely seen as politically motivated police crackdowns in Delhi and other cities. The events themselves have been extensively reported and would be familiar to students.

In this course we will revisit approximately twenty years of recent legislation in the
light of several key legal developments, most notably the 2003 and 2019 amendments
to the CAA and the multiple amendments (crucially those in 2004 and 2019) to the
Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Conventionally, the concept of a democratic suspension of civil rights’ would be a contradiction in terms. However, there has taken place a transformation in the very meaning of concepts central to the Indian Constitution, that allow economic and social inequality to be conceived not just as an unfortunate fact of life but as normatively inevitable. Key concepts so transformed include: the people’, supposedly the authors of the Constitution, increasingly abstracted into a state populism, divided into citizens’, now viewed as a productive subset of the people (namely, those who qualify for social rights) and the population’ repositioned into beneficiaries’ (those targeted’ for state benefit), and the differentiated and segregated social and economic rights that attach to each category.

Such a transformation, reinterpreting the very principles of equality, places growing
pressure on how we might interpret their original’ Constitutional meaning as well as
its transformational capability. This pressure on interpretation will be viewed both
historically, as we look at recent juridical and legislative histories, and conceptually,
as we focus specifically on new techniques of governmentality that have transformed
the analogue public sphere into complex, and often problematic, digital variants.
These transformations occur in the process of their translation into the domain of
digital governance.

The course will discuss the emergence of digital governance through an extensive
textual engagement with a number of Acts, Rules, Judgments and Reports passed roughly between 2000 and 2020 in India, beginning with the 2000 IT Act and including the 2004 and 2019 amendments to both the National Population Register (NPR) and the Unlawful Activities prevention Act (UAPA), alongside several reports and key Supreme Court judgments.