Citizenship and the Mass Production of Statelessness in Assam

India Exclusion Report (2020)

26 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2021

See all articles by Abdul Kalam Azad

Abdul Kalam Azad

VU University Amsterdam

M. Mohsin Alam Bhat

Yale Law School; Jindal Global Law School

Harsh Mander

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: October 25, 2020


This chapter seeks to assess the implications of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in India’s Assam – specifically the conceptualisation, operationalisation and consequences of the NRC – from the perspective of the analytical framework of exclusion from public goods. It argues that stable citizenship is a public good, and the NRC – as a legal and bureaucratic process – amounts to exclusion from public goods. The first part argues that stable citizenship is a public good since it is, first, instrumentally valuable for persons to access their entitlements and rights, and second, inherently valuable as having a bearing on their dignity as human beings. Moreover, unstable citizenship – marked by arbitrary processes and lack of accountability – engenders the third genre of exclusion. It victimises individuals and forces them to divert their resources from achieving other public goods towards proving their citizenship. The second part draws from empirical evidence to argue that the NRC engenders these forms of exclusion at the three different levels of design, implementation and consequences. The chapter shows that right from the beginning, there were serious flaws in the design of the process that undercut institutional accountability and transparency. These design flaws were further aggravated by the inefficiencies and oversights at the level of implementation. We draw from empirical and ethnographic evidence to also show that institutions implementing the process reflected bias. These empirical insights – that evince the serious flaws in the NRC process – have weakened and continue to weaken stable citizenship of innumerable Indians. Flawed bureaucratic and legal processes like the NRC produce severe uncertainty for the citizenship status of persons, heightening their vulnerability, disrupting their lives, and causing tangible and intangible harm to them. Such processes thus amount to exclusion. The final part offers recommendations to reform, and in some cases substitute the existing state policies.

Keywords: India, citizenship, statelessness, Assam, exclusion, justice, discrimination, bureaucracy, refugees

Suggested Citation

Azad, Abdul Kalam and Bhat, M. Mohsin Alam and Mander, Harsh, Citizenship and the Mass Production of Statelessness in Assam (October 25, 2020). India Exclusion Report (2020), Available at SSRN:

Abdul Kalam Azad

VU University Amsterdam ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
Amsterdam, ND North Holland 1081 HV

M. Mohsin Alam Bhat (Contact Author)

Yale Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

Jindal Global Law School ( email )

Jindal Centre 12 Bhi12 Bhikaiji Cama Place
Near Jagdishpur Village
New Delhi, Uttar Pradesh/Haryana 110 066

Harsh Mander

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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