‘They were not expected to behave like the terrorists they were hunting. Even in the thickest fog of war, the law-abider and the law-breaker must be distinguished.’
India is justly proud of a parliamentary democracy that has never been threatened by a military coup. No mean feat in a neighbourhood where coups are common and notions of constitutionality shaky. However, for decades now, India’s democratic standing has been steadily declining. An international analysis recently rated the country as only ‘partly free’, while another deemed it an ‘electoral autocracy’.
Josy Joseph investigates this decline and comes away with a key insight: that the process of confronting militancy has warped the system. As insurgencies erupted across India, and grew increasingly more sophisticated in the 1980s and ’90s, the security establishment struggled to keep up. Increasingly overwhelmed, the police forces, intelligence agencies, federal investigation agencies, tax departments and the like came up with ingenious—at times sinister—solutions: from faking and framing evidence to staging massive terror attacks and even creating terrorist organisations. Over time, militancy became a flourishing, multi-faceted business enterprise.
From the Kashmiri militancy to the Sri Lankan civil war, from the attack on Mumbai to the long-term unrest in the Northeast, India’s ‘war on terror’ has made its security institutions more nationalistic and chauvinistic and, inevitably, more corrupt. Most dangerously, there is a near-complete capture of the security apparatus, whether investigative agencies, police or intelligence, by the political executive—serving as stormtroopers with no accountability, rather than as defenders of the Constitution.
The result of more than two decades of reporting on insurgencies, terrorism and the security establishment, The Silent Coup is a wake-up call to the nation. You do not need a military coup to subvert democracy, Joseph says—in India, it has already been subverted.