Just minutes after the Pulwama attack, India was at it again – baying for blood. It’s the same tale of chest-thumping, threats, and vitriol – nothing new here. “We will give a befitting reply; our neighbor will not be allowed to destabilise us,” roared Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack, a man of stellar repute no doubt, who in his finer days as Chief Minister (CM) of Gujrat presided over a Muslim massacre – one of the largest Muslim massacres in Indian history. Finance Minister (FM) ArunJaitley wants to “ensure the complete isolation from the international community of Pakistan.” How the good minister plans to proceed with this sublime ambition, he did not say. Indian celebrities, too, were quick to join the chorus of hate, tweeting their rage in angry hashtags. Headlines of major Indians news channels and papers ran ablaze with censorious declarations of Pakistan’s complicity. Witness Arnab Goswami, a man who missed his calling for the Klu Klux Klan or Hitler’s Third Reich, shrieking with calls for bloody revenge, wagging a crazy finger in the air. It is true, hate mongering alarmists have a place in media everywhere, hate after all sells. But Goswami is a special breed of hater; the kind only India could produce – the Bollywoodish rage of the angry man against the evil world; the crude bravado and heady abandon of the performer playing to the cheering mobs; the misplaced machismo which so often accompanies recently acquired fame. One could almost imagine if India were a person, it would bear a scary resemblance to Goswami. Because one need only cast a glance at India Shining to see Goswami-like traces of bloated self-regard, playing to populist passions, and projecting a misleading brand which hides a nastier, uglier interior. For a country that has produced decades of triumphalist Bollywood movies, it’s not surprising that its own reality – indeed the conduct of its very head of state – has become its finest production yet. But the world is not a Bollywood set, and India’s misleading branding of its own grandeur and greatness will struggle mightily to survive any contact with reality. And the reality is that Kashmir is bleeding, and has been bleeding, for decades. And it is in this bleeding, writhing Kashmir, where India has been committing crimes against humanity, decade after decade. Which is why Indian accusations that Pakistan is behind the Pulwama attack, and Kashmiri militancy in general, merit little more than polite consideration before they are safely retired as nonsensical spasmodic ejaculations of a belligerent, incoherent state. The world is not a Bollywood set, and India’s misleading branding of its own grandeur and greatness will struggle mightily to survive any contact with reality The fact is that the Pulwama attack was conspicuous in its timing: just before Saudi Corwn Prince Muhammad Bin Salman landed in Pakistan, just before Indian spy KulbhushanJadhav’s case took off at the International Court of Justice, just before the Indian general elections (adding fuel to Modi’s populist rhetoric during peak election time), and just when the United States (US) and Pakistan are finally coming to some negotiated settlement in Afghanistan. Unless masochism has become the state policy in Pakistan, one is strained to imagine how this attack could benefit Pakistan. But had India comported itself in Kashmir with civility and fairness, had it not blinded a whole generation of young Kashmiris with pellet ammunition, had Indian forces not murdered thousands of innocent Kashmiris and raped hundreds of young girls, had it in other words not acted as a tyrannical force in an occupied territory, then the accusations of Pakistani stoked militancy would have carried more weight. As it stands today, though, with a standing army of 250,000 Indian paramilitary soldiers – the most militarised place in the world – all too keen to inflict pain on Kashmiris every passing day, imposing curfews, curtailing movement and mobility, subjecting families to the basest, most degenerate levels of humiliation; this is a state which stands several disgraceful levels below any moral high ground it claims for itself. It was in 2010, amid protests in Kashmir, when Indian forces killed 120 protestors and subjected several others to grotesque levels of abuse and humiliation. Among those abused was a 15 year old Burhan Wani, who would later emerge as one the most celebrated militant commanders among young Kashmiris. When shot dead by the Indian armed forces, Wani’s death sparked a series of protests in Kashmir valley. Indian forces retaliated with customary firepower, killing more Kashmiris along the way. But Wani had already captured the imagination of a younger generation of Kashmiris who had come of age enduring only war and destruction. And it is this generation, stoked less (if at all) by Pakistan, and more by a spirit of vengeance against the tyranny of an occupying force, which seeks the settling of old scores. So India could very well go on blinding young kids in Kashmir, but in the process it is effectively blinding itself to the consequences of its own actions; consequences which will come back as Burhan Wanis and AdilDars, young men no longer afraid of the consequences of delivering a retaliatory blow. The death of the 44 Indian soldiers who lost their lives in the Pulwama attack is unfortunate. Just like the deaths of thousands of innocent Kashmiris at the hands of Indian forces, decade after decade, is unfortunate. That this cycle of death perpetuates to this day, without relent, merits deeper self-reflection on part of all concerned parties, but most significantly the Indian leadership. But introspection is unlikely, when a country becomes the biggest consumer of its own manufactured myths. This new India is too busy gloating about its 8 percent GDP growth, the expansion of its military force, and its rising influence in global events, that it has become insensitive to local problems it does such a good job at hiding: abject poverty, rape culture, rise of intolerance and xenophobia, and apartheid in Kashmir. While India may imagine it has left Pakistan behind, and will leave it further behind if current trends hold, the reality is a stable Pakistan is critical to India’s future. A China-friendly Pakistan could very well become a transit hub for energy pipelines, trade routes, and investment corridors in the future. It’s also a huge potential market, with a population of 207 million people, mostly under the age of 30. India is not doing itself any service by making an enemy out of Pakistan and rebuffing recent attempts by PM Khan to rekindle diplomatic dialog. It’s time India got its act together. Every country is entitled to its own myths, but there is no greater myth-buster than reality concealed too long. The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, February 25th 2019.