“We got citizenship but nothing else”: Love, (be)longing, and betrayal in the context of India’s citizenship regime

Farhana Ibrahim


While recent amendments to India’s Citizenship Act are designed to exclude Muslims from claims to citizenship in India, this essay seeks to problematize the assumption that Hindu migrants who seek citizenship under the new Act are incorporated seamlessly and unproblematically into the nation. The constitutional grant of citizenship and social acceptance into everyday local worlds are not always congruent. My ethnographic examples are drawn from an earlier wave of migration of Hindu men from Sindh into western India. They illustrate both a feeling of love and anticipation at the prospect of Indian citizenship as well as an acute sense of betrayal that they did not get “anything else” apart from legal citizenship—which in this case is social dignity, honor, and acceptance into local Hindu caste society. While the state may read cross-border migration in the terms of broad religious categorizations that are then written into its citizenship laws, there is no good reason to assume that these legal documents translate into everyday life in the same manner. The grant of citizenship—even to the Hindus that the state is so eager to make into citizens—is not the end of the story of cross-border migration; often it is just the beginning of a long negotiation for migrants who need to learn a new language of belonging in order to integrate. That language—as this ethnographic example from Kutch shows us— has to do as much with caste equations as with the question of religion or nationality per se.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/711893