Crisis of Citizenship: A Critical Reading List on Assam’s NRC and Beyond

A critical or alternative reading list on the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam, Assamese nationalism, and the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019.


Assamese jatiyatabadis (ethnonationalists or simple ‘nationalists’) continue to argue that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise that was undertaken in Assam over the last two years was a necessity and must be supported. They believe that an all-India NRC would be disastrous and communal, but the Assam list, which ended up excluding 1.9 million people in its final iteration, has some “nuance” to it, which the “outsiders” do not understand.

This is a view coloured by ethno-nationalist bias. It is the direct outcome of decades of anti-immigrant, xenophobic and chauvinist propaganda pushed into the public imagination of Assam by the mainstream civil society organisations, intelligentsia and political elites. According to this view, Assam faces a demographic, cultural and economic threat from “illegal Bangladeshis”. The NRC, thus, is a much-required tool to identify them.

Ethno-nationalists of all political persuasions continue to hold this view despite the fact that the NRC process led to widespread misery, panic and anxiety amongst the most marginalised and vulnerable of Assam’s communities. The list-making exercise is also part of the same citizenship determination regime in Assam that includes the judicially-twisted Foreigner Tribunals (FTs) and the undemocratic Detention Camps. The distance between the NRC and the horrid interiors of a detention camp isn’t very big.

The NRC in Assam has to be rejected and opposed with the same insistence and ferocity as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019 and the prospective all-India NRC. In fact, it is the Assam NRC model that the government will try to emulate across the country while simultaneously building new detention facilities.

Following is a list of articles authored by a group of young academics from Assam on how unjust, segregationist, oppressive and undemocratic the NRC process is. The list is multi-disciplinary and also touches related themes of Assamese ethno-nationalism (from which the NRC derives its core legitimacy), the Indian citizenship framework, statelessness and the recently-enacted CAA.

  1. An Open Letter To Noam Chomsky ON CAA, NPR, NRC, Countercurrents, 20 February 2020 / Angshuman Choudhury & Suraj Gogoi
  2. All Assam Students’ Union, Anti CAA protests and lack of women’s representation, Countercurrents, 7 February 2020 / Bhargabi Das & Sutputra Radheye
  3. Assam NRC exercise and citizenship determination drive hold warning to other states of the shape of things to come, Firstpost, 30 January 2020 / Angshuman Choudhury
  4. The Indian State’s approach to CAA-NRC is flawed, Hindustan Times, 21 January 2020 / Suraj Gogoi
  5. Can Assam Look Beyond Ethnic and Regional Politics?Indian Cultural Forum, 10 January 2020 / Suraj Gogoi & Rintu Borah
  6. Isn’t NRC Elitist And Patriarchal? Looking At National Identity Through A Feminist LensYouth Ki Awaaz, 23 Oct 2019/ Pooja Kalita
  7. NRC: The state as a dehumanized machineThe Telegraph, 14  Nov 2019/ Bhargabi Das
  8. Yogendra Yadav and Shekhar Gupta vouch for a monolithic Assamese identity; get history and politics around NRC all wrong, Firstpost, 27 Dec 2019 / Angshuman Choudhury & Suraj Gogoi
  9. Assam’s NRC consensus: Lack of public disorder after draft didn’t mean absence of violenceScroll, 23 Dec 2019 / Suraj Gogoi & Abhinav P Borbora
  10. Assam cabinet nod to accord stature of state language to Assamese may stifle growth of other tongue spokenFirstpost, 23 Dec 2019/ Samyak Ghosh & Suraj Gogoi
  11. AASU return to centre stage as Assamese elites, commoners, repose faith in student body to lead fight against CAAFirstpost, 18 Dec 2019, Abhinav P Borbora & Suraj Gogoi
  12. Citizenship Amendment Act and NRC are two sides of same coin; both seek to alienate India’s MuslimsFirstpost, 17 Dec 2019 / Angshuman Choudhury & Suraj Gogoi
  13. Why Assamese are against CABMumbai Mirror, 11 Dec 2019 / Angshuman Choudhury
  14. Why is the Indian state shockingly blind to the problem of statelessness?,, 30 Oct 2019 / Angshuman Choudhury
  15. Psychology behind NRC mirrors narrow, dominating side of Assamese language, and its fragile nationalism, cultural identityFirstpost, 20 Oct 2019 / Suraj Gogoi
  16. The NRC’s spillover effectHimal Southasian, 14 Oct 2019 / Suraj Gogoi & Rohini Sen
  17. How my mother briefly became an illegal immigrant in IndiaChannel NewsAsia, 10 Oct 2019 / Angshuman Choudhury
  18. A narrow nationalism againThe Hindu, 12 Sept 2019 / Angshuman Choudhury & Suraj Gogoi
  19. Re-contextualising the NRC: A Response to Hiren GohainCountercurrents, 10 Sept 2019 / Suraj Gogoi & Angshuman Choudhury
  20. Counting to Segregate: Behind Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC)South Asia Journal, 6 Sept 2019/ Angshuman Choudhury
  21. The State needs identity politics so that its agenda can surviveThe Telegraph, 6 Sept 2019 / Rintu Borah & Suraj Gogoi
  22. The NRC signals a deeper crisis of citizenshipHindustan Times, 3 Sept 2019 / Suraj Gogoi
  23. Jyotiprasad Agarwala and Twentieth-Century Assamese Political Thought, Critical Asian Studies, 1 September 2019 / Samyak Ghosh & Suraj Gogoi
  24. What the spam dossier on journalists and activists covering NRC tells us about Assamese SupremacyNewslaundry, 28 Aug 2019 / Angshuman Choudhury & Suraj Gogoi
  25. National Register of Citizens (NRC) – A Synonym for Deep AnxietyThe Citizen, 19 Aug 2019 / Abhinav P Borbora, Suraj Gogoi & Angshuman Choudhury
  26. Ex-Assam guv SK Sinha’s report on illegal immigration in state is riddled with contradictions, dubious dataFirstpost, 29 July 2019 / Angshuman Choudhury
  27. Language Games of Assam: The Mainstream vs the MarginsIndian Cultural Forum, 17 July 2019 / Parag Jyoti Saikia, Suraj Gogoi & Angshuman Choudhury
  28. Mainstream ‘progressives’ in Assam are actually liberal hegemonsNewslaundry, 16 July 2019 / Angshuman Choudhury
  29. What Hiren Gohain’s bitter criticism of Miyah poetry tells us about Assamese nationalismFirstpost, 6 July 2019 / Angshuman Choudhury & Suraj Gogoi
  30. Miyah Poetry Weaves a World of Suffering and Humiliation in Contemporary AssamThe Wire, 3 July 2019 / Suraj Gogoi
  31. Miyah Poetry in the time of  Nationalism, The Wire, 14 Jul 2019, Rintu Borah & Prithiraj Borah
  32. Complains of low exclusions from NRC reflects a mode of thinkingCountercurrents, 17 Sept 2019/ Abhinav P. Borbora
  33. Home Minister Amit Shah expands Foreigner Tribunals across IndiaAsia Times, 14 June 2019 / Angshuman Choudhury
  34. With Anti-Immigrant Stance, Are We Becoming A ‘Gardening State’?The Quint, 13 June 2019 / Suraj Gogoi & Angshuman Choudhury
  35. In the Guise of Protest Music, Assamese Artists Churn out Hate SpeechThe Wire, 9 May 2019 / Suraj Gogoi & Abhinav P Borbora
  36. What Do Walls in Guwahati Tell Us About Its People and Their History?The Wire, 14 April 2019 / Samyak Ghosh & Suraj Gogoi
  37. Debate: The Real ‘Burning Questions’ of AssamThe Wire, 14 March 2019 / Suraj Gogoi, Parag Jyoti Saikia, Gorky Chakraborty & Abhinav P Borbora
  38. It’s time we talk about racism in AssamNewslaundry, 5 Feb 2019 / Suraj Gogoi
  39. Citizenship Bill: JPC report shows how proposed law violates constitutional principles of equality before lawFirstpost, 25 Jan 2019 / Angshuman Choudhury & Jonmani Das
  40. Citizenship Determinational Processes in Assam: The NRC and BeyondInstitute of Peace and Conflict Studies (Special Report), October 2018 / Angshuman Choudhury (pages 5-8)
  41. Tinsukia killings: After almost a decade of relative calm, Assam faces threat of violence over ethno-nationalismFirstpost, 17 Nov 2018 / Angshuman Choudhury
  42. Underprivileged risk losing citizenship in India’s NRC driveAsia Times, 1 Aug 2018 / Angshuman Choudhury
  43. My Mother Can Fight Her NRC Exclusion, but What About the Rest?Bloomberg Quint, 1 Aug 2018 / Angshuman Choudhury
  44. The NRC and Legal Voids in Statelessness in IndiaThe Envoy, 11 July 2018 / Angshuman Choudhury
  45. NRC Assam: Sarbananda Sonowal, Himanta Biswa Sarma warn ‘illegal foreigners’ but overlook constitutional obligationFirstpost, 4 May 2018 / Angshuman Choudhury
  46. Assam Against Itself: A Reply to Sanjib BaruahLSE South Asia blog/ Suraj Gogoi, Gorky Chakraborty, & Parag Jyoti Saikia
  47. Narrow Assamese identity thrives amidst shameful citizenship processAsia Times, 9 Jan 2019/ Suraj Gogoi
  48. Strikes have become test-cases for freedom of space in AssamAsia Times, 23 Jan 2019/ Suraj Gogoi
  49. A lack of citizenship will produce second class citizensAsia Times, 7 Feb 2019/ Suraj Gogoi
  50. Dissent over citizenship bill causes havoc, Asia Times, 8 Feb 2019/ Suraj Gogoi and Shyamal Chakma
  51. Professor  Hiren Gohain, Let’s talk about Assam againThe Wire, 13 Feb 2019/ Gorky Chakraborty, Suraj Gogoi and Paraj Jyoti Saikia
  52. Citizenship Bill: The other in AssamThe Statesman, 25 Feb 2019/ Suraj Gogoi  and Prasenjit Biswas
  53. Waiting for citizenship: a global phenomenaAsia Times. 12 Mar 2019/ Suraj Gogoi and Paraj Jyoti Saikia
  54. In Assam, Nostalgia shelters Assam Gana Parishad’s flexible regional beliefsThe Wire. 21 Mar 2019/ Suraj Gogoi and Abhinav P. Borbora
  55. NRC Updation Ends: 19 lakh Indians are not Indians anymorePune Mirror, 1 Sept 2019/ Suraj Gogoi
  56. The silence of the media: National Register Of Citizens in AssamNewslaundry, 2 Jul 2018/ Parag Jyoti Saikia & Suraj Gogoi
  57. The rise of Philistines in AssamNewslaundry, 16  Jul 2018/ Parag Jyoti Saikia & Suraj Gogoi
  58. How NRC legitimised xenophobia and chauvinism in AssamNewslaundry, 2 Aug 2018/ Parag Jyoti Saikia & Suraj Gogoi
  59. A Reply to Dr. Hiren GohainCountercurrents, 11 Aug 2018/ Suraj Gogoi and Parag Jyoti Saikia
  60. NRC Muddle: vigilante students union and India’s borderlands, Asia Times, 23 Aug 2018/ Suraj Gogoi
  61. NRC and Intellectual RacismSabrang, 29 Aug 2018/ Suraj Gogoi and Parag Jyoti Saikia
  62. Re-imagining Assamese identity under the shadow of NRCAsia Times, 31 Aug 2018/ Suraj Gogoi
  63. A Register most flawedFountain ink, 8 Oct 2018/ Parag Jyoti Saikia & Suraj Gogoi
  64. Intellectuals shaping a Narrow Homogenous identity in Assam, Asia Times, 29 Oct 2018/ Suraj Gogoi
  65. Latest Killings put spotlight on Assamese nationalismAsia Times, 13 Nov 2018/ Suraj Gogoi

This list is non-exhaustive and will be continuously updated.

Featured image: NRC applicants in Assam show their ID proof while waiting at a document submission centre | India TV / Source link: