Modern South Asian Studies seminar MT21 Wk 1: Borders and Identities: Who is a “Bangladeshi” in Assam?

Conveners: Nayanika Mathur, Imre Bangha, Kira Huju, Thiruni Kelegama and Anwesha Roy

Speaker: Malini Sur (University of Western Sydney)

This talk explores the ambiguities surrounding Indian citizenship in Assam, Northeast India. The stigmatised category of the “suspected Bangladeshi”, a product of competing histories of land loss and migration, has emerged more recently from shifts in immigration regimes and electoral politics. Based on participant observation in two Foreigners Tribunals, I show how the police and the judiciary make suspicion, rather than legal certainty fundamental to the manufacturing of Indian citizenship. Seeking to identify and deport “illegal” Bangladeshis, these processes disrupt the relationships that people have with papers, places, families, and communities. In the light of current developments, my talk will reflect on questions of identity and belonging in Assam and what it means to be an Indian citizen.

Malini Sur is a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at Western Sydney University. She is the author of Jungle Passports: Fences, Mobility, and Citizenship at the Northeast India-Bangladesh Border (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021). Malini has also published on borderlands  in Cultural AnthropologyComparative Studies in Society and History and Modern Asian Studies

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