Aleph to publish ON CITIZENSHIP by Romila Thapar, N. Ram, Gautam Bhatia, and Gautam Patel

Four of India’s finest public intellectuals go deep into key aspects of what constitutes citizenship in India


The essays in this volume give the reader a proper understanding of what Indian citizenship means, the threats to it, and what each citizen of this country needs to do, in the words of N. Ram, ‘to reflect on and reset perspectives on what secular, democratic, rights-bearing citizenship means in the contemporary world and what needs to be done to find a way back to the core values of the Indian republic as set out in the preamble to the constitution—justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity’.

Picture Credit: Aleph
Picture Credit: Aleph

In On Citizenship, four of India’s finest public intellectuals go deep into key aspects of what constitutes citizenship in India, an issue that has lately been the subject of furious public debate, as a result of controversial decisions by the government in power.

In the lead essay in this volume, ‘The Right to be a Citizen’, the historian Romila Thapar explores how citizenship evolved in India and the rest of the world. In addition, she examines the rights of citizens and analyses the state’s duties towards its citizens.

In his essay, ‘The Evolving Politics of Citizenship in Republican India’, the editor and political commentator N. Ram provides a cogent and succinct political history of citizenship in the sovereign, secular, democratic republic of India.

In ‘Citizenship and the Constitution’, the legal scholar and writer Gautam Bhatia explores constitutional provisions relating to citizenship. He shows how Part II of the Constitution ‘articulates a vision of Indian citizenship that is interwoven with the Indian constitutional identity as a whole: secular, egalitarian, and non-discriminatory’.

The essay by the jurist Gautam Patel, ‘Past Imperfect, Future Tense’, looks at, among other things, the organization of key provisions of the Constitution, and how they relate to citizenship, with an emphasis on the relationship between citizenship and fundamental rights.
Taken together, the essays in On Citizenship provide the reader with clear, informed, compelling insights into the vexed issue of citizenship in India today.

 is Professor Emerita of History at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She was elected General President of the Indian History Congress in 1983 and a Fellow of the British Academy in 1999. In 2008, she was awarded the prestigious Kluge Prize of the US Library of Congress which complements the Nobel in honouring lifetime achievement in disciplines not covered by the latter.

N. RAM, a director of The Hindu publishing group and former editor-in-chief of The Hindu, is a political journalist with literary interests. He has written on a range of socio-political subjects and specialized in investigative journalism. Along with Susan Ram, he is the biographer of the great Indian writer R. K. Narayan, whom he knew well. Ram was awarded the Padma Bhushan for Journalism (1990). He also received the Asian Investigative Journalist of the Year Award from the Press Foundation of Asia (1990); Raja Ram Mohan Roy Award for contributions to journalism from the Press Council of India (2018); and a Columbia J-School Alumni Award (2003).

GAUTAM BHATIA graduated from the National Law School of India University. He has BCL and MPhil degrees from the University of Oxford and an LLM from Yale Law School. At Oxford, he won the Herbert Hart Prize for the best essay on jurisprudence and political theory, and his essay on the jurisprudence of Ronald Dworkin was published in the Australian Journal of Legal Philosophy. His essays have appeared in the Oxford Handbook for the Indian ConstitutionMax Planck Encyclopedia of Comparative Constitutional Law, and in journals such as Constellations and Global Constitutionalism. He has published three books—Offend, Shock, or Disturb: Freedom of Speech Under the Indian ConstitutionThe Transformative Constitution: A Radical Biography in Nine Acts, and a novel, The Wall.
As a lawyer, he has been part of legal teams involved in contemporary constitutional cases such as the challenge to criminal defamation, the nine-judge bench right to privacy case, the Section 377 challenge, and the Aadhaar challenge. His work has been cited thrice by the Indian Supreme Court, and once by the High Court of Kerala.

JUSTICE GAUTAM PATEL began practice in 1987 at the Bombay High Court, working in civil litigation and environmental public interest matters. He held positions in the Bar Association, taught briefly at the Government Law College, wrote regularly for a local newspaper, and contributed articles to journals. He was appointed a judge of the Bombay High Court in June 2013. He has delivered several public lectures including the T. K. Tope Lecture (February 2018), Charles Correa Memorial Lecture (September 2018), the first J. B. D’Souza Memorial Lecture (June 2019), Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy Annual Lecture (December 2019), the 27th Bansari Sheth Memorial Lecture for the Asiatic Society of Mumbai (August 2020), and an address at the Manthan Samvaad 2020 (October 2020). He is passionate about books, law, music, photography, fountain pens and stationery, cinema, science, computers, technology, art, travel, and dogs, not necessarily in that order.

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