Pakistani nationals of the Hindu faith migrate to India because of their religion, caste, culture and history – and lately Indian government officials right up to the Prime Minister have been encouraging them to ‘come back’, according Natasha RahejaAssistant Professor of Anthropology at the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S).
But at the border, many hopeful migrants find that Indian citizenship is not assured.
“Pakistani Hindus may imagine their migration as an implementation of their ‘right of return,’ but they actually experience an ambivalent reception upon arrival,” Raheja wrote in “Governing by Proximity: State Performance and Migrant Citizenship at the Indo-Pakistan Border,published September 8 in Cultural Anthropology.
While embedded among migrants in the western Indian city of Jodhpur, Raheja discovered that Indian authorities were using physical proximity and digital connection to lure potential citizens while making them wait for the basic recognition and well-being.
For the past eight years, Raheja has worked with migrants from Pakistan awaiting Indian citizenship, as part of her broader inquiry into how border crossings demand new ways of imagining our geopolitical order of nation states. .
“I wanted to understand how migrants continue to seek recognition in the face of repeated postponements,” Raheja said. “During the fieldwork, I noticed the enchantment and cynicism associated with visits by national politicians to border regions. In this article, I make sense of these mixed effects of state performance through the concept of government by proximity.
Proximity is a modality of governance that yields mixed results, Raheja said. When politicians get closer to voters, physically or digitally, they manage expectations and provide assurances to voters. But they also expose themselves to scrutiny, giving people the opportunity to see beyond performance into the flawed workings of government.
“Proximity is like a magnifying glass that amplifies both stature and shortcomings,” Raheja said. “On the one hand, when people in positions of power are close to us, we can feel special and like we belong personally. On the other hand, we can observe their shortcomings and inconsistencies.
In Jodhpur, a city with a high concentration of Pakistani migrants from different castes, Raheja met Meera, an indigenous farm worker who hoped to obtain Indian citizenship for herself and her husband, parents and 10 children during a camp. two-day citizenship.
“For Meera, meeting high-ranking officers and seeing digital snippets of political welcome speeches in the palm of her hand felt like Indian citizenship was a near possibility,” Raheja wrote. “At the same time, she had relatives and acquaintances whose visa and citizenship applications had been delayed or rejected.”
Elsewhere in the citizenship camp, a man named Pankajlal waited an hour to apply on the basis that his mother, with him in the line, was born in ‘undivided India’ before the 1947 partition , who created the separate nations of India. and Pakistan. When they finally reached the office, they were refused as the affidavit that Pankajlal had acquired was not sufficient; instead, they needed a birth certificate.
“The burden always falls on ordinary people, the same way the weight always falls on the wheel of a cycle,” Pankajlal said. “The [in Pakistan], they call us Hindu infidels; here [in India]damn pakistani.
But another candidate encouraged Pankajlal to speak out. Together they approached government officials to complain about the criteria for birth certificates.
“Their exchange shows how this site, centered on a performative admission of their special status as desirable Indian citizens, also generated criticism from refugee-migrants of the Indian government,” Raheja wrote. “A few hours later, an official from the Home Office came on the loudspeaker to make a special announcement: he had decided that instead of birth certificates, camp officials would accept applications with affidavits attesting to the birth of a parent in joint possession. India.”
Raheja’s broader research looks at migration to understand how majority-minority politics transcend national frameworks. His studies of the Indo-Pakistan border raise broader questions about state power over border migration around the world.
“Across borders, manufactured national assets and state legitimacies require maintenance,” Raheja said. “As the article carefully details, governing by proximity is enchanting but also generates fatigue and doubt. It is in this gap that there is potential for migrants to refuse and imagine alternatives.