Millions of people from India’s northeastern state of Assam have to defend themselves against suspicions that they are illegal migrants from neighboring Bangladesh. I explore how one such group of individuals, who work as waste pickers in Delhi, protect their citizenship against the combined vulnerabilities of being Assamese, Muslim, and residents of an unauthorized slum. I show that they develop a split relation with the government, defined by a costly requirement to vote in their borderland villages, and by avoidance for all matters linked to everyday life. By working hard in an occupation shunned by everyone else, they seem to uphold this citizenship of extraordinary political obligation and minimal entitlement. But when this equilibrium unravels around the debt that they contract to pay for basic services and for the trip home to cast their ballot, the price of their condition determined by suspicion, is revealed.
Lucy Dubochet, “Citizenship as Burden of Proof: Voting and Hiding Among Migrants from India’s Eastern Borderlands”, Citizenship Studies, 2022.