In this episode, Suchitra Vijayan sits down with Abhishek Saha to discuss his new book, “No Land’s People: The Untold Story of Assam’s NRC crisis” and the xenophobic rhetoric around issues of migration and citizenship. The preparation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam was an unprecedented exercise that sought to establish Indian citizenship of the state’s 33 million residents. The process intersected with the already existing parallel mechanisms of citizenship determination in the state. The final list, published on 31 August 2019, left out around 1.9 million applicants who risk being rendered stateless after their appeals are heard by the state’s Foreigners’ Tribunals. The NRC’s narrative is expansive and complex – a blend of history, politics, law, human rights, and administrative red tape. What does belonging to the land look like? How is the way we imagine citizenship inherently violent? And how do state negligence and ill-intent come together to deny someone their right of existence in their homes? How do we document the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Assam’s citizenship and the complications of the NRC process while exploring technical, social, and legal aspects of the exercise? Saha explores all these questions and more.
Abhishek Saha covers northeastern India for The Indian Express. He reported from Kashmir for the Hindustan Times from 2015-18. Saha won the prestigious Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award for his coverage of the Kashmir unrest of 2016.His debut book No Land’s People, a reportage-driven account of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, was published by HarperCollins in 2021. He tweets @saha_abhi1990.