The Caravan

Chains of Command

“I am issuing this warning because we should all be concerned about the country,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi told both houses of parliament a week into the budget session. “If the Rajasthan assembly passes a law but no one in Rajasthan is ready to obey it,” he asked, where would it lead? “Can the country run like this? Should we go on the path to anarchy?”

Only what had irked Modi was not the residents of a state defying local legislation, but entire states lining up to resist a central law—the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. To date, a dozen states and the union territories of Delhi and Puducherry have rebelled against the CAA. Six of them have also adopted resolutions denouncing it. Modi’s reproach was aimed at this reality.

India’s federal balance is under strain, with a stern centre snarling at recalcitrant states. We have witnessed a similar combat before. That early episode—and its unlearnt lessons—ignited a belligerence that still gnaws at Indian federalism.

Kerala was the first state to pass an anti-CAA resolution, just before the new year, and the first to invite the centre’s ire. Early this January, the union law minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, chided Kerala’s chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, for piloting an anti-CAA resolution through his state assembly and promising to flout the law. “CAA

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