Experiencing the violence of law: Contextualising the NRC process in Assam

Tiwari, Anubhav Dutt and Singh, Prashant (2021) Experiencing the violence of law: Contextualising the NRC process in Assam. Jindal Global Law Review, 12 (1). pp. 29-54. ISSN 23644869

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Assam has been a site for a hugely contested project of (re)determining an Indian ‘citizen’ through a purely identity document–based administrative legal exercise. Verification of citizenship-related documents has been a ubiquitous reality in Assam, almost since India’s independence, but in recent years, more pertinently, as a result of the Supreme Court–monitored update of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam. The NRC’s interwoven relationship with the existing legal framework applicable to ‘foreigners’, particularly with the role of the Foreigners Tribunals (FT) in the state, creates a ‘legal’ picture of individuals, based on an incessant reliance on State-recognised identification documents. Law, thus, comes across as highly technocratic, with the potential to ignore the human aspects of deprivation of citizenship status as well as the hardships and anxieties around citizenship determination processes. One of the critical perspectives on such a legal outlook is to divert the spotlight towards the people’s experiences, particularly the marginalised, and their interactions with such legal, bureaucratic citizenship determination processes. Drawing from narratives from a study conducted in Assam between June and August 2018, this article seeks to provide a contextual analysis around the question of the potential legal violence unleashed by the NRC exercise which sought to ‘update’ the register of Indian citizens in Assam and exclude ‘foreigners’ pending appeals before the FTs. It puts forth the argument that certain marginalised and vulnerable persons experienced violence sanctioned by law during the NRC process itself due to the Supreme Court’s ignorance and its preoccupation with the image of the ‘illegal migrant’. Therefore, this article is an attempt to contextualise the potential violent effects of law in identifying the ‘other’ in relation to the Indian ‘citizen’ during the NRC, conducted under the supervision of the Supreme Court, which should also have been concerned with the implementation of fundamental rights under the Constitution for the marginalised and the vulnerable.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Citizenship | Foreigner | Illegal migrant | Legal violence | Assam | NRC | Foreigners tribunals
Subjects: Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Human Factors and Ergonomics
Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Law and Legal Studies
JGU School/Centre: Jindal Global Law School
Depositing User: Mr. Syed Anas
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2022 18:03
Last Modified: 15 Oct 2022 17:21
Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/s41020-021-00148-3
Funders: O.P. Jindal Global University, Haryana, India
Additional Information: The authors would also like to thank Dr Jessica Field, Mr Ravi Hemadri, and Ms Tanvi Rastogi for their various roles in the feldwork and the wider project, which has provided the contextual pivot to this article.
URI: https://pure.jgu.edu.in/id/eprint/1206


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