How to Subvert a Democracy

Inside India’s Deep State

August 2022 9781787387997 392pp
EU Customers


India is a democracy at bay. This compelling book puts the spotlight not on political leaders but on the murky workings of India’s deep state—from the police to the federal investigative and intelligence agencies.

Traversing the Mumbai train blasts, the Kashmir insurgency, the Gujarat ‘war on terror’ and the Delhi riots, Josy Joseph reveals corruption and political agendas running through the core of agencies that should ensure justice and accountability, and shows how this has undermined democracy. In 2020, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, India’s democratic pillars suffered another blow: the arrest of activists, dissidents and journalists opposed to Narendra Modi’s government, some on dubious charges, others under stringent anti-terror laws.

Some contend that Modi has simply perfected the art of subverting a democratic state’s security establishment, bending it to his will. With false arrests, the overlooking of right-wing Hindu terror, an establishment bias against Muslims and an unenviable human rights record that has often relied on extrajudicial killings or false testimonies, India’s domestic security institutions have become just another player in pursuit of power. How did this happen? And why does India, the world’s largest democracy, often subvert the very ideals of democratic politics when dealing with security challenges?


‘[How to Subvert a Democracy] is a testimony of the sheer brilliance of India’s award-winning journalist Josy Joseph’s insightful exploration into India’s Deep State—the non-military security establishment.’ — The Muslim World Book Review

‘[The book] substantially reinforce[s] the grounds for rising international anxiety as to how far the ideals and political development of India are changing under the current government.’ — Asian Affairs

‘An excellent account of all the ways in which elitism and oligarchic power structures have eroded the fabric and essence of democracies worldwide.’ — Dawn

‘Moving and disturbing, How to Subvert a Democracy offers a deep dive into the state capture that has seized so many of India’s institutions. Josy Joseph, with his long-time expertise in national security, has put together a richly researched investigation that unravels sordid tales of official abuse and neglect, with serious consequences for our democracy.’ — Shashi Tharoor, former UN Under-Secretary-General, Congress MP, and author of The Struggle for India’s Soul

‘Josy Joseph is a reliable researcher and an artful narrator of contemporary India. The silent coup of Joseph’s reckoning is not a warning. Instead, he maintains it has already happened, barely noticed. He offers in this book a collection of vignettes that show how and at what cost.’ — Adrian Levy, investigative journalist; foreign correspondent for the Sunday Times, and author of The Siege: Three Days of Terror Inside the Taj

‘In this compelling book by the award-winning journalist Josy Joseph, it is not India’s political leaders who are under the spotlight but the murky workings of India’s deep state, from the police to the federal investigative and intelligence agencies. Joseph depicts, through a variety of colourful characters, how corruption and political agendas run through the core of the agencies that should be responsible for justice and accountability, subverting democracy in the process.’ — Hannah Ellis-Petersen, South Asia correspondent for the Guardian


Josy Joseph is an award-winning journalist and writer. He is the founder of Confluence Media, a platform-agnostic investigative journalism outfit; and the author of A Feast of Vultures, an exposé on corruption in India.

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