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Abstract

In a unique historical event following the ratification of the Land Boundary Agreement between India and Bangladesh by the Indian Parliament on 7 May, 2015, populated border enclaves between the two states were exchanged in the midnight of 31 July 2015. The reorganisation of these enclaves as territories of the states of India and Bangladesh was accompanied with their populations opting for citizenship of either states. The residents of the former Bangladeshi enclaves have historically struggled with the social boundaries enforced by the border and with the conditions of stateless since the Partition of India. This study investigates the experiences of newly documented Indian citizens of the former Bangladeshi border enclaves in the Cooch Behar district of West Bengal, India, particularly the Muslims among them. It is conducted as a long-term ethnography between March 2016 and January 2017 and the digital follow-up of their citizenship experiences thereafter. As an anthropology of the state, it looks into the individual and collective struggles of the newly documented citizens, as they manoeuvre the shifting rationality of their lifeworld that had been constituted by shared understanding in the form of transnational social practices to the inroad by result-oriented logic of the system, representing the state and experienced in the form of political parties, local bureaucracy and street-level state agents. The study demonstrates that these borderland actors as newly documented citizens are located in a space of continuous marginalisation. Citizenship emerges as a paradox between emancipation and domination and a site of continuous struggle.

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