JNU NEISP Lecture "Data Infrastructure and the Politics of Citizen-Making" | by Khetrimayum Monish Singh | 09 March
NORTH EAST INDIA STUDIES PROGRAMME
SCHOOL OF SOCIAL SCIENCES
Data Infrastructure and the Politics of Citizen-Making: Analyzing the Assam NRC citizen identification project
Khetrimayum Monish Singh
The Centre for Internet and Society, New Delhi
(Former student of CSSP, JNU)
In India, databases such as the UID/ Aadhaar represent new 'sociotechnical imaginaries' (Jasanoff and Kim, 2015) of data infrastructures that mediate state-citizen relationships in a political regime of public-private partnerships. Database politics, around such data infrastructures, therefore represent new forms of categorizations – who is a citizen, who is a resident and who is a welfare beneficiary. In this paper, I investigate the update of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) database in Assam (India) as a case study to map the emergent changes in one of the core modalities of Indian governance: the unique identification of citizens. The NRC, as a part of the National Population Register (NPR), is a list of only Indian citizens, and is currently in the process of being updated only in Assam. This update is driven by concerns around illegal immigration from neighbouring Bangladesh, the history of identity politics in Assam, and constitutional and legislative rules and provisions which define the nature of citizenship in India. While promising formal integration into the legal system of rights, the NRC database also inevitably reflects a controversial exercise evident through the inclusion/ exclusion of individuals. Situated at the intersection of Science and Technology Studies and Infrastructure Studies, this paper seeks to problematize this particular infrastructure, and the challenges and concerns following legal, bureaucratic and technical processes of categorization, identification, data collection and data verification of a diverse demography.