Archit Guha


This article focuses on the fragmented “illegal immigrant” identity in (post)colonial India. Employing a critical postcolonial lens, it provides a genealogical investigation of the legality surrounding the illegal immigrant, which reveals a colonial legislation that served British wartime interests—the Foreigners Act (1946). The application of the legislation in contemporary times bolsters the (Hindu) nationalist rhetoric that views the Bengali Muslim as the “Bangladeshi illegal immigrant.” The production of the Bangladeshi illegal immigrant as a governmental category, however, has a longer history that is tied to the question of citizenship and mass migratory flows before and after Partition (1947) as well as to the birth of Bangladesh (1971). The Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, 1983 was passed in Assam, but later struck down by the Supreme Court in 2005; both the promulgation and ultimate revocation point towards the ethno-religious bias inherent in the popular and politico-legal responses to immigrants, as well as the fact that Assam has become the locus for setting the agenda on migration. Assam has suffered the consequences of a politicization of immigration coupled with the poor political management of migratory populations, but the discourse on illegal immigration travels far and wide across the nation, uncovering the limits of the nation-state itself.

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