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Book Review: The Silent Coup by Josy Joseph

Rahul Vishnoi review’s Josy Joseph’s The Silent Coup (Published by Context, 2022)

Josy Joseph is a writer-journalist specialising in investigative journalism, and his name has chiefly been associated with uncovering Mumbai Adarsh Housing Scam and 2010 Commonwealth Games scam. Here in The Silent Coup, he investigates India’s war on terror, non-military security organisations like Indian police, IB, RAW, and CBI conducting the investigations, the alleged terror perpetrators chiefly (and mostly only) poor Muslims, and how their lives have been affected in the wake of these investigations.

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The Writing

Josy Joseph writes that a professional security establishment is at the core of the modern state (think CIA, Mossad). It is the state’s best protection. But, if not managed well, it could turn into a nation’s worst nightmare. Citing examples from the neighbouring countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh, Joseph believes that Indian politicians were smart to keep military apolitical and away from the executive.

All the military coup in the South-Asia speak for the demon the military can become. However, Joseph writes, military coup is not the only way to subvert a democracy. Apart from a foreign invasion, an assassination attempt, which are the external factors, there is an internal factor at work that can render a country unstable: the ruling elite. The state’s police forces, intelligence agencies, federal investigation agencies, tax departments etc become the tools of the ruling elite. The author cites examples from Singapore, Venezuela and Emergency enforced in the reign of Indira Gandhi between 1995 and 1997.

Joseph follows the threads closely, lumping up the news bytes published over years and comes up with sort of a complete picture that anyone would miss while following up on a case in newspapers for decades. To add the human quotient and to bring the effects of these investigations at the grass roots level, he chooses a Mumbai based schoolteacher Wahid accused by the security organisations for a number of bomb blasts in Mumbai on different times.

Irony and Surprises

The irony here is that Wahid’s father was a born Hindu but ran away from his home to escape an abusive father. He was given a home by a kind Muslim couple and, converted to Islam willingly. Using Wahid as a narrative tool, Joseph examines a number of occurrences that you could have caught up sometimes in the newspaper, especially the notorious Narco test that were being conducted a dime a dozen a few years ago.

Incidentally, the celebrity doctor Malini who conducted thousands of polygraphs and Narco tests during the time of Mumbai blast was later accused of falsifying data, editing the CDs and submitting her false documents for promotion. The amount of fabrication was such that officers stood beside Malini to dictate the answers they wanted the accused to say. In a rare twinge of sad humour Joseph mentions that when Wahid was asked who’s the president of SIMI, an organization banned by Congress government after 9/11, he replied: Pratibha Patil.

Joseph digs deep and writes about the officers who unlawfully detained many Muslims, forcing and torturing them. He finds that there is a deep dislike and distrust for Muslims in the Indian security forces. The modus operandi was that sometimes the police would turn upon their own informers, indicting them falsely in a case.

These people would then be forced into inciting and recruiting other Muslims for an act of terror so that the police could have some accused ready at hand. Joseph writes that this practice has muddied the intelligence reports on terror and was the reason that 26/11 attack in Mumbai happened. The US was selfish, Pakistan was deadly and India was unprofessional.

It all started with the twin tower blasts and America’s subsequent war on terror, Joseph writes. The echoes of that attack were heard all over the globe and the world has not remained the same since then. The number of human-rights violation cases have increased manifolds in a post 9/11 world.

Josy Joseph

Uncovering Secrets

Josy Joseph writes in detail about the simmering Kashmir, unrest in the northeast, Gujarat riots, and Hindu terror linked to Samjhauta Express blasts and links them all to the malpractices prevalent in the security establishments: corruption, toeing the line drawn by the ruling power and a tendency of saving their own kind.

Josy Joseph holds both, the current ruling party and the one that ruled India for decades for this hollowing out of democracy and corruption. The best way to read The Silent Coup: A History of India’s Deep State, is to temporarily disband your political leanings, right or left, and plunge into this book with nothing but an open mind, ready to receive and review the text presented. If you are a deeply empathetic person, I request you to read it when you are in your healthiest state of mind.

Favourite Quote by Josy Joseph

From the book, these words stayed with me for long:

‘The fact is that every religious belief has, deep in its folds, the recipe for both peace and violence, and this has been misused by violent elements to launch attacks on followers of other religions throughout history.’

The Silent Coup by Josy Joseph
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Rahul Vishnoi

Rahul Vishnoi

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