Conceptions of Citizenship in India and the 'Muslim Question'

This paper explores the development of multiple conceptions of citizenship in India in an attempt to understand how, despite profound social divisions, India's nationhood holds together. The paper advances the proposition that the Indian polity incorporated a deeply divided and conflict-ridden population by offering multiple notions of citizenship upon which a sense of membership in the nation, and a share in the enterprise of the state, could be sought. By negotiating and balancing distinct overlapping conceptions for competing membership claims in the nation, diverse social groups could find a viable place in the nation, without entirely resigning their various group identities. The analysis focuses as a lens on the Muslim citizens who are amongst the most excluded members in the whole body of Indian citizenry. It provides perspectives into how even some of the most marginalised members in Indian society found sufficient prospects for a meaningful participation within the nation. Multiple conceptions of citizenship enabled the state to manage its diverse social groups and contain many of their underlying conflicts.

Ornit Shani
Modern Asian Studies, Cambridge University Press