chapter  35
10 Pages

Indian citizenship: a century of disagreement

ByNiraja Gopal Jayal

The idea of the Indian citizen is at once the defining aspiration of modern India and also its most contested political idea. India obtained independence from colonial rule in 1947, and the Constitution of the new republic came into force in 1950. The story of Indian citizenship is one that straddles the twentieth century, such that the dominant idea of citizenship is formed in the colonial first half of the century, finds embodiment in the constitutional settlement at the mid-point of the century, and is simultaneously unravelled and strengthened in its second half. At no point in this considerable span of time and in no aspect of this complex idea, is there an absence of contestation, frequently deep contestation. If the resilience of these ideational contests is surprising, the continuity in the debates and even the arsenal of arguments deployed throughout the twentieth century is startling, considering that the constitutional settlement of 1950 was expected to resolve these contentions by giving expression to a consensual and authoritative conception of Indian citizenship. This chapter provides an account of a century of disagreement about citizenship in India on three of its core dimensions: citizenship as legal status; citizenship as rights and entitlements; and citizenship as identity.