The concept of citizenship comprises three broad dimensions. It can be summed up as citizenship as legal status, citizenship as a bundle of rights and entitlements, and citizenship as a sense of identity and belonging. Relations between the three dimensions are complex: the rights a citizen enjoys will partly define the range of available political activities while explaining how citizenship can be a source of identity by strengthening her sense of self-respect. In the country these days, the debate delineating the nuances of the Citizenship Amendment Act is rife, both in its favour and against.
The formulation of citizenship (the liberal framework) has been historically condemned for not taking into account the “difference”, foregrounded by the feminist scholars and later advanced by the anti-race scholars. It altogether fails to acknowledge and account for the historically accumulated inequalities among different social groups.
Different policies have been brought in to (superficially) recognise and address these accumulated inequities in the form of political and social reservations. One of the most popular and most contested ideas being the idea of caste-based reservations in educational institutes, jobs and political institutions. It is no hidden fact that mostly this idea has been contested by the supporters of the present dispensation, the BJP. It is also a reoccurring fact that this group is the one who has come in steadfast support for the CAA and NRC.
It will be interesting to see how this phenomenon unfolds, keeping the considerations above as a template for analysis. How bestowing mere citizenship status and granting legal and political rights will facilitate a sense of identity and pride amongst those who will opt for the citizenship status. Moreover, how will the state account for their ‘difference’ and counter the ensuing reactions from their loyal support base?
While this idea of giving citizenship to the persecuted people is now resonating with the dominant and resourceful social groups, it will become interesting to see whether this stems out only because of the accumulated hatred towards one community, or if people have become surprisingly benevolent in a real sense that they find no problems in sharing resources with those erstwhile asylum seekers.
History suggests this romanticism of the dominant Indian groups will start disintegrating as soon as they realise that they, too, will have to make way for the erstwhile asylum seekers in socio-economic and political realms and share resources with them. For people who can’t even bear with the idea of providing certain benefits to their historically-oppressed brethren, I have serious reservations that they will be able to remain as patriotic and as Hindu as they are acting right now.