The Crisis in the Indian Deep State
The deep state is familiar to Indians as being associated with the Pakistan army and its intelligence agencies running of the state there. Recently, President Trump’s fulminations against an American deep state alerted Indians to the phenomenon that it is not one confined to military dictatorships next door but sister liberal democracies also suffer likewise.
To the usual suspects from the marginalized, alternative strategic community, this is not news. However, most Indians were surprised when the opposition Congress party tacitly averred to an Indian deep state in its press conference on the arrest of Jammu and Kashmir police officer Davinder Singh.
In real time, the heavy artillery was deployed for damage control with the lapdog media and long-known intelligence name droppers,some scribes come immediately to mind, being put to what they are best at – obfuscate and putting out a sanitized narrative.
In this official narrative, Davinder Singh succumbed to the usual blight of the police, the inducement of pelf, by taking to ferrying militants – terrorists if you will. He was apprehended by the Kashmir police red handed. Regime apologists quickly had it that there was little to it than a cop gone rogue.
The alternative narrative had it that their suspicion of an Indian deep state existing, if not thriving, stood vindicated. The alternative narrative is worth reprise in order that Indians take a measure if national security is at all well served by the deep state.
In the instant case, the alternative narrative it that there is much more to the parliament attack than met the eye of the courts. Davinder Singh’s role was one such. Afzal Guru in a parting statement in writing had indicated that Singh had put him to aid one of those killed in the parliament terror attack. That this lead had not been investigated thereafter only hardened suspicion. The Kashmir police’s seeming ignorance of the accusation in its press conference on Singh’s arrest only serves to reinforce.
Both cops of Delhi’s special cell who were the face of the parliament attack investigation died separately under suspicious circumstances. Rajbir Singh who had a reputation as an encounter specialist - short hand for custodial killer - died while engaged in a corrupt deal. The other, Mohan Chand Sharma, likely stopped friendly fire at another badly-executed alleged custodial killing in the infamous fake encounter at Batla House.
The sense that there is something to hide is furthered by the National Investigative Agency (NIA) readying to take over Singh’s case. The agency has acquired the reputation so far that it only helps cover up tracks of majoritarian terrorists.
This brings one to the second piece of evidence in this narrative of the deep state. The NIA has let off Naba Kumar Sarkar, aka Swami Aseemanand, for his self-confessed participation in acts of majoritarian terror in the Mecca Masjid, Ajmer Dargah and Samjhauta Express blast cases. It’s looking the other way in the Malegaon blast case has helped one well-known terrorist to be elevated to parliament by the ruling party.
A sister agency, that sports the moniker ‘caged parrot’, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), has not pursued the case that Justice Loya was engaged in at his CBI court when he died in suspicious circumstances. It dropped the charges that allowed Home Minister Amit Shah to walk free in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter killing. The cops involved under DG Vanzara include a rapist-murderer, testifying to justice being ill-served for Sohrabuddin’s wife killed alongside.
The alternative narrative has it that Sohrabuddin’s killing had to do with covering up any links to the political murder of a former home minister of Gujarat, Haren Pandya. Pandya was said to have spilled the beans to human rights organizations on the right wing conspiracy behind the 2002 pogrom in Gujarat. The rest, as they say, is history with the then chief minister rising to becoming a two-time prime minister today.
In the alternative narrative, this political journey from the province to Lutyen’s Delhi is the clinching evidence. The start of the journey was littered with Muslim bodies, including that of a nineteen year old girl supposedly killed in encounter with terrorists out to gun down the provincial chief minister allegedly presided over the pogrom.
Modi’s tough-on-security image took form then. A poor security situation in several terror attacks in the mid 2000s helped. The adverse security situation itself was one conjured up with magnification of terror attacks, not only by several perpetrated by majoritarian terrorists, but by the media ceding its investigative faculties.
Even the terror attack of singularly horrifying proportions, Mumbai 26/11, has an underreported underside. That the Hemant Karkare-led heroes of the anti-majoritarian terror investigation were suspiciously shot dead in the attack is a pointer. Outspoken testimony of a retired inspector general of the Mumbai police with several leads to the contrary has not made a dent in the popular narrative that solely has Pakistan at its cross hairs.
Clearly, the conjuring up of the image based on a misleadingly poor security situation could not have been without help from within the security establishment. In those years, a Congress-led government was in power.
This points to a deep state, furthering an agenda outside that of the state, yet from within its confines: in this case manufacturing of a security situation to help midwife its chosen champion to power.
In the popular narrative, the security situation was vitiated by Pakistani complicity and an internal hand, whether of Kashmiris in that benighted state or of Muslim sleeper cells in the Indian hinterland. This keyed into the Hindutva narrative of Muslims having external loyalties and helped consolidate a vote bank from among majority Hindus behind Modi as the Hindu Hriday Samrat.
It is probable that the twinning of the Pakistan and Muslim minority security predicaments of the Indian state gave rise to the deep state. The eighties and nineties saw their aversion to Pakistan’s interference in India’s internal security. They were less than enamoured by India’s hapless reaching out to Pakistan through the nineties. They finally got their act together as a right wing government took the helm at the turn of the century. It gave them the space necessary for putting together a hard-line counter to Pakistan, with their professional expertise in intelligence operations to the fore – of which the parliament attack is epitome.
With the reins passing on to the UPA in the subsequent decade, these denizens – comprising at various junctures busy bodies from groups within the national security complex with extensions into their respective retired fraternities – went dissident. The term deep state was apt for the period.
However, in the Modi years, with the doyen of the dissidents in the UPA years, Ajit Doval, being rewarded with the national security adviser chair, the deep state has gone mainstream. This is their victory of sorts, but also one of their antagonists, the Pakistani deep state counterparts, who are counter-intuitively perhaps happy that India has now come to resemble them all the more.
The apprehension of Davinder Singh suggests that there is now an alternative deep state, wary of the workings of the erstwhile deep state now ensconced in power.
Singh’s apprehension is perceived by some strategic circles as their preemption of yet another plot in the Pulwama mould, this time to spring the Modi government out of a tight spot it has got into with the counter citizenship amendment act protests in time for it to retrieve from precarity faced with the Delhi and West Bengal elections.