writings of ali ahmed, PhD (JNU), PhD (Cantab), with due acknowledgement and thanks to publications where these have appeared. Download books/papers from dropbox links provided. Twitter: @aliahd66
Also see blog-www.subcontinentalmusings.blogspot.in. Former UN official, academic and infantryman. Author India's Doctrine Puzzle: Limiting War in South Asia (Routledge 2014). All views are personal.
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, like Praveen
Swami, being put to what they are best at – obfuscate and putting out a
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
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
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.
The choice of Modi for the role
was made easier by the corporate
sector falling in line by the end 2000s.
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
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 likely
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.