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Pakistani citizens of the Hindu faith migrate to India based on religion, caste, culture and history, and recently Indian government officials up to the prime minister have been encouraging them to “come back,” according to Natasha Rahej, an assistant professor of anthropology at the college. of Arts and Sciences from Cornell University (A&S).

But at the border, many hopeful migrants find that Indian citizenship is not guaranteed.

“Pakistani Hindus may imagine their migration as asserting their ‘right of return,’ but in reality they experience a mixed reception upon arrival,” Raheja wrote in “Governing by Proximity: State Performance and Migrant Citizenship on the India-Pakistan Border,” published on September 8 in Cultural anthropology.

While among migrants in the western Indian city of Jodhpur, Raheja found that Indian officials use physical proximity and digital connectivity to lure potential citizens while they wait for recognition and basic welfare.

For the past eight years, Raheja has worked with Pakistani migrants awaiting Indian citizenship as part of her larger investigation into how border crossings demand new ways of imagining our geopolitical nation-state order.

“I wanted to understand how migrants continue to seek recognition despite repeated delays,” Raheja said. “During my fieldwork, I noticed the charm and cynicism associated with the visits of national politicians to the border regions. In this article, I conceptualize these ambiguous effects of state activity through the concept of governance through closeness.”

Proximity is a way of governing that produces mixed results, Raheja said. When politicians approach voters, physically or digitally, they manage expectations and offer reassurances to voters. But they also expose themselves to scrutiny, giving people a chance to look beyond productivity into the imperfect workings of government.

“Proximity is like a magnifying glass that magnifies both growth and flaws,” Raheja said. “On the one hand, when people in positions of power are around us, we can feel special and like ourselves. On the other hand, we can observe their shortcomings and inconsistencies.”

In Jodhpur, a city with a high concentration of Pakistani migrants of various castes, Raheja met Meera, an indigenous worker hoping to obtain Indian citizenship for herself and her husband, parents and 10 children at a two-day citizenship camp.

“For Meera, meeting high-ranking officers and watching digital clips of political welcome speeches on her palm made getting Indian citizenship feel like an imminent possibility,” Raheja wrote. “At the same time, she had relatives and acquaintances whose visa and citizenship applications were delayed or rejected.”

Elsewhere in the citizenship camp, a man named Pankajlal waited for an hour to apply on the grounds that his mother was born with him in “undivided India” before the 1947 partition that created the separate nations of India. and Pakistan. When they finally reached the table, they were turned away because the affidavit Pankajal received was insufficient; instead, they required a birth certificate.

“The burden always rests on the common people, as the weight always rests on the wheel of the cycle,” said Pankajal. “There [in Pakistan], they call us infidel Hindus; here [in India]bloody Pakistanis”.

But a fellow applicant encouraged Pankajal to speak out. Together, they approached government officials to complain about the criteria for birth certificates.

“Their exchange proves that this site, focused on the performative recognition of their special status as desired citizens of India, also provoked criticism of the Indian government by migrant refugees,” Raheja wrote. “A few hours later, a home ministry official got on the loudspeaker to make a special announcement: He had decided that instead of birth certificates, the camp staff would accept applications with birth certificates of one parent in undivided India.”

Raheja’s broader research turns to migration to understand how majority and minority politics transcend national boundaries. Her research on the India-Pakistan border raises broader questions of state power over border migration around the world.

“National things and state legitimacy made abroad need maintenance,” Raheja said. “As the article details, proximity management is fascinating, but it also breeds fatigue and doubt. It is in this gap that there is potential for migrants to give up and imagine alternatives.”

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Additional information:
Natasha Roheya, Governing by Proximity: State Performance and Migrant Citizenship on the India-Pakistan Border, Cultural anthropology (2022). DOI: 10.14506/ca37.3.09

Citation: Creating a ‘political economy of hope’ on the Pakistan-India border (2022, October 6) Retrieved October 6, 2022, from border.html

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