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Accepted Paper:

JESTERS AND LITTLE SOLDIERS: Understanding the National Register of Citizens (NRC) project in Assam, India through Data-Entry Operators.  
Bhargabi Das (Shiv Nadar University, Delhi)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines a massive citizenship project in borderland India through narratives of non-state contract workers involved with it to argue how their engagement introduced ‘ambivalence’ and ‘affect’ to a rigid, dry state-making regime, opening up spaces of dialogue at the grassroot level.

Paper long abstract:

2015, Assam, India: The Supreme Court of the country declares the NRC project wherein all residents of Assam would have to prove their citizenship through documentary evidence listed by the state. This massive ‘anti-immigrant’, islamophobic project in borderland India was a huge bureaucratic and technical exercise that included state officials appointed to collect and verify documents and non-state contract workers to enter all manual data online called Data-Entry Operators. While most state officials were upper caste Assamese Hindu men, the non-state contract workers were mostly Bengali Muslim men and were treated to different moral and legal standards. This paper will look at the NRC project, a 4 year long massive state-making exercise that has currently left out 1.9 million people, through the narratives and experiences of the Data-Entry Operators. It will argue how they introduced an element of ambivalence and affect in an otherwise rigid, exclusionary and document-obsessed state regime opening up possibilities of spaces of dialogue between the caste-Hindu Assamese and the Bengali Muslims, two historically opposing groups in Assam, India. This paper is based on my two-year long ethnographic fieldwork in Assam.

Panel P067b
Grassroots states: Transformations of statecraft II
  Session 1 Friday 29 July, 2022, -