This essay considers the fraught issue of clandestine migrations from East Pakistan/Bangladesh into India through a close reading of Prafulla Roy's Bengali short story “Stateless.” By drawing attention to the Indian state's slippery construction of the “illegal migrant” and to the increasingly constricting definition of Indian citizenship, I argue that the “illegal Bangladeshi” is a deeply unstable category, open to misuse and translation by different state actors/agencies. “Stateless” enables us to imagine the precarious existence of the sans papiers as de facto stateless persons and illustrates the importance of citizenship as legal status for those who don't have it.

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