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Many mutinies: On protests against amended citizenship law

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Meanings are given in Bold

After erupting ( break out suddenly and dramatically )  in revolt against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), Assam and other Northeastern States have substantially ( for the most part; essentially)  calmed. People will withdraw to their daily lives soon, but mistaking it for normalcy as the Centre characteristically does in such situations would be dangerous. The Northeast is inhabited ( (of a person, animal, or group) live in or occupy (a place or environment))  by diverse populations, sharing borders with several neighbours.

Assertive ( having or showing a confident and forceful personality) ethnic politics, including secessionism and resistance to migration into the region, has been a defining character of the area. Grievances ( an official statement of a complaint over something believed to be wrong or unfair) of indigenous populations are genuine, but it is difficult, even counterproductive ( having the opposite of the desired effect) , to try to resolve them by privileging ( exempt (someone) from a liability or obligation to which others are subject)  one group over another. Applying a religious test to such an exercise, as the CAA seeks to do, is mindless and dangerous.

The Northeast’s ethnic divergences have been delicately — and barely ( only a very short time before ) — managed with the collaboration of local power-brokers and grant of special property and cultural rights to communities. The BJP’s inability in appreciating diversity has long ceased to surprise anyone, but its insistence ( demand ; command ) on aggravating ( making a problem or offence worse or more serious) dormant ( temporarily inactive ) faultlines and inflaming ( provoke or intensify (strong feelings, especially anger) in someone) new passions is baffling ( impossible to understand; perplexing). The CAA has wrecked ( destroy or severely damage)  the Assam Accord of 1985 and exhumed ( Expose ; dig out)  sleeping hostilities.

Prime Minister Modi’s declaration of his government’s commitment to cultural and linguistic ( relating to language or linguistics ) rights of Northeast communities, once the region went up in flames, was welcome, though late. It takes meaningful gestures, not copious ( abundant in supply or quantity)  words, to hold together diverse populations in the pursuit of common goals. It is a pity that the BJP, despite its ambitions to make India a superpower, cannot comprehend ( grasp mentally; understand )  the elementary truth that triggering numerous mutinies ( refuse to obey the orders of a person in authority ) across the nation is an impossible route to that.

After the subterfuge ( deceit used in order to achieve one’s goal ) on Kashmir, which involved responsible government functionaries lying to the public, the trust deficit ( the amount by which something, especially a sum of money, is too small ) of this government among vulnerable ( exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally ) communities has multiplied. The BJP has made inroads in the Northeast and is in power in all seven States. In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, it won a majority of the region’s 25 seats. The party mistook its victories for an approval of its Hindutva politics, it now appears. Hindutva seeks to subordinate all identities to an overarching ( comprehensive or all-embracing ) Hindu identity, but societies cannot be shoehorned ( force into an inadequate space ) into such narrow politics.

The CAA seeks to provide a legal imprimatur ( a person’s authoritative approval )  to the BJP’s blatant ( (of bad behaviour) done openly and unashamedly ) politics of turning the Northeast’s ethnic faultlines into a religious one, by excluding Muslims alone. By pitting Bengali-speaking Hindus who have moved around in the region against their Muslim counterparts, the party hopes to reinforce ( strengthen or support (an object or substance), especially with additional material ) itself in West Bengal also. The current tempest will soon pass, but this turmoil ( a state of great disturbance, confusion, or uncertainty ) will not cease. To undo the misadventure of CAA, the Centre must show courage and hold back, and the leadership must demonstrate statesmanship. That will serve the nation well.

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