"The poor, the rich, and the citizen: shift in discourses of citizenship in 20th century India"

This paper will examine an important shift in the notion of belonging and citizenship in India from the early 20th century to the post-liberalizations period while exploring the ideological motivations underpinning it. It will be shown that in colonial India the idea of citizenship promoted by Indian nationalists was based on notions of sacrifice, thrift and austerity: transferred to the domain of the political, renunciation acquired new relevance in the colonial context and emerged as an important factor in belonging to the national community, promoted by several self-help associations and, as known, by Gandhi himself. Nevertheless, from the mid-1980s and especially after the economic liberalizations, increasing attention was paid to affluent South Asian diaspora groups and to their economic potential to generate national wealth. So, newly defined de-territorialized visions of ‘Indianness’ emerged in order to reach out and incorporate the well-off Indians into the nation. At the same, the inclusive principles of citizenship by birth included in the Indian Constitution started being diluted by ideas of citizenship by descent which made laws more exclusive. The consequence was the creation of new patterns of inclusion and exclusion on the basis of economic status and religious affiliation. Considering debates, claims and controversies, this paper will shed light on the continuities and ruptures in the relationship between (the absence of) riches and belonging and will explore the reasons that allowed new discourses of citizenship to acquire credibility in the Indian polity and to influence the law.

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