By John Maerhofer
The imperialist project carried out by India in Kashmir is defined by the ideology of the deep state. As it is used in the mainstream, the deep state may refer to state within the state elements which operate to secure and maintain power, depending on the specificities of the historical moment and place. As such, the phrase can be suited to both the political left and right in order to nurture an understanding of the complex web of forces by which the modern “democratic” state fortifies its matrix of power to befit its intentions, whether economic or political or both. While the notion of a “shadow government” has some relevance here, I would like to avoid the aporetic connotations of the orthodox configuration of the deep state by channeling it through the work of the Althusserian Marxist Nicos Poulantzas whose analysis allows for a materialist based understanding of the dynamics of power that the state exorcises and the consequences in terms of the resulting political struggle.
For Poulantzas, the modern “normal” state is a flexible (or social) entity that serves to unify dominant class power by dis-unifying and fracturing the dominated classes through a combination of ideological and repressive apparatuses which are employed to centralize political control and, when necessary, secure and reorganize hegemonic power of the ruling class, particularly in moments of crisis. What is crucial in Poulantzas’ analysis is the extent to which the institutional materiality of the “normal” capitalist state is safeguarded only by creating the necessary obfuscation of the disciplinary mechanisms at work. Furthermore, Poulantzas argues that the deep state is not an exceptional form of state-based power but instead runs parallel to the stabilizing functions orchestrated by the state to sustain and consolidate ruling-class power. This is a condition that Poulantzas labels “authoritarian statism,” a permanent crisis mode of the capitalist state which involves the increasing control over socio-economic and political spheres of everyday life combined with draconian measures to ensure the concentration of power in the hands of the dominant class.
It is not difficult to understand the Indian occupation of Kashmir and in the context of the analysis of the deep state outlined above. Driven by a policy of forced assimilation by brute military force, mass surveillance, and corrupted political collaboration from within, India’s occupation of Kashmir demonstrates the extent to which deep state forces become a necessity in order to maintain political and extra-economic control. Above all, the indefinite military occupation demonstrates the normality of authoritarian statism, or what I describe as a modus operandi of the deep state that has been the mainstay since partition, beginning with Nehru’s fantasy of Indian homogeneity. The logic of the occupation could not be complete without a complicit ideological machinery in the form of the corporate media that effectively erases the horrors of the occupation from public memory, both in India and internationally. In the wake of the emergence of Hindutva extremism in India since the late 1990’s, such forms of systemic violence have fallen in line with political policy, normalized by the mainstream media through the rhetoric of Islamophobic hysteria and touted by complicit intellectuals as the necessary consequence of state security. Seen in this light, Kashmir is an unambiguous expression of the authoritarian mechanisms of the deep state, mirrored by what Arundhati Roy correctly labels “the benign mask of democracy” propagated in India proper.