NEW DELHI, INDIA – NOVEMBER 17: Members of Delhi Pradesh Mahila Congress protesting against Gujarat Government during the press conference to protest against the spying of an Architect girl in Gujarat at AICCI office, 24 Akbar Road on November 17, 2013 in New Delhi, India. Congress expressed shock over the allegations that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s close aide Amit Shah misused his powers to monitor the movement of a young woman in 2009. (Photo by Sushil Kumar/Hindustan Times )


THE NOTION OF a “deep state”—which has been mostly used, in South Asia, about Pakistan—refers to a political system where power is ultimately exerted in a secret manner by security forces in conjunction with (or without) politicians. Lately, Josy Joseph has applied this category to contemporary India in that sense. Unsurprisingly, he devotes one full chapter to “the Gujarat model.”

But in the Gujarat of this time, state authority did not only rely on a “deep state”; it also ruled over people through the network of the Sangh Parivar and, more specifically, through vigilante groups which had penetrated and permeated society in such a way as to fashion a “deeper state.”

Any deep state is a surveillance state—and Gujarat tended to become such a one in the early 2000s. The BJP government revealed its intention to resort to phone tapping soon after coming into power in 2001 and then allegedly resorted to the technique despite it being illegal to do so. In December 2001, three months after he was appointed chief minister, the Gujarat cabinet approved the draft of the Gujarat Control of Organised Crime (GujCOC) Ordinance and sent it for approval to the Government of India. The latter approved it—after some minor amendments in 2002—but asked the state government to have it passed as a law in March 2003. It did so and in April sent the bill to the Union Home Ministry for presidential assent. Then, interestingly, the BJP-led government of AB Vajpayee returned the bill to the Gujarat Assembly and asked the Modi government to remove two sections: the one which allowed phone tapping (in the original GujCOC bill, district collectors and police were permitted to intercept and record phone calls) and held that intercepted telephone conversations could be considered legitimate evidence; and the section according to which a confession made before a police officer could also be considered as evidence. The original bill was sent again to Pratibha Patil in 2008 and to Pranab Mukherjee in 2015, but they returned it too. In 2019, President Kovind finally gave his assent.

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