Managing Dangerous Populations: From Colonial Emergency Laws to Anti Terror Laws in Israel and India


The article examines the legacy of British colonial emergency laws through a critical comparison of their transitions into contemporary anti-terror laws in Israel and India. To employ the emergency legislation, colonial bureaucrats classified the population according to the level of their loyalty or threat to the regime. This classification (which Berda calls the "axis of suspicion") blurred the boundaries between "security threat" and political threat. Following independence, in both India and Israel this same institutional logic and these same emergency laws shaped the perception of minorities as alien, hostile and dangerous populations. There was, however, one major difference: In India, the colonial laws were used against citizens, even those from the Hindu majority; in Israel, these same laws were used primarily against Palestinian subjects (even after they were granted formal citizenship). This difference, I argue, can be traced back to the specific form of the legal/bureaucratic mechanism developed in both states to deal with the colonial inheritance. In India, the emergency laws were incorporated into the constitutional framework, while in Israel they remained as a bureaucratic legal toolkit, limiting the scope of legitimacy for state violations of citizens' rights. The proposed War on Terror bill, which has already successfully passed its first reading in the Knesset, will make the legal situation in Israel parallel to that of India, enabling extensive violations of the civil and political rights of citizens on the basis of identity and political affiliations.

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Last updated on 03/05/2016