Entangled citizens
The afterlives of empire in the Indian Citizenship Act, 1947–1955
in The break-up of Greater Britain
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This chapter examines the legacies of empire and expansive notions of ‘Greater Britain’ that shaped the remarkable status of Indians as British subjects after Indian independence, as per the British Nationality Act (BNA) of 1948. It does so by tracing the ways in which drafting the 1955 Indian Citizenship Act necessarily meant negotiating the messy possibilities of citizenship produced by the BNA and the widespread crises of citizenship encountered by overseas Indian migrants in British colonial territories and Commonwealth nations. The diplomatic haze about defining the status of overseas Indians shaped their experiences as ‘entangled citizens’ who were potentially eligible for multiple claims to citizenship and yet whose claims were often contested by all countries involved. Such a reading departs from conventional understandings of Indian citizenship that view it either solely in terms of Partition or as a mechanism through which the Indian state distanced its diaspora. Instead, this chapter reads Indian citizenship as the product of a complex, even paradoxical negotiation of migrant identities shaped by empire.

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