As usual, the Indians are missing the point.

The killing of people can never be celebrated. The 44 soldiers who lost their lives in the Pulwama attack were doing their job. They were targeted because the state they served has wreaked carnage in India-Occupied Kashmir. And yet the blood of these soldiers was as precious as the blood of any other person regardless of whether he or she lives in New Delhi, Islamabad or Srinagar.

No one should gloat over a loss of life.

And yet, no one should gloss over the harsh realities of life. That is sadly what India is doing with fervour in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack. Rage is trending on their media and talk of war is circulating with shocking casualness. The entire country, it appears, is in hormonal overdrive — which may explain why the Indian reaction is so knee-jerk, immature and predictable.

Here’s what the Indian logic is:

(a) Adil Ahmad Dar, the attacker, belonged to the Kashmir chapter of the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) and the JeM is led by Masood Azhar who is based in Pakistan, therefore Pakistan is responsible for the attack; (b) Pakistan’s growing confidence after being recognised as the central player in the ongoing Afghanistan peace talks has led it to up the ante in Kashmir; (c) Pakistan must be punished through some retaliatory action.

There’s plenty that is wrong with this logic. At the root of this is the refusal to recognise that Adil Dar was a son of the Kashmiri soil and not an infiltrator from across the Line of Control. This single fact opens a door into the actual issue which led Dar to his suicide mission, and which forms the core of why Indian soldiers continue to get killed in Occupied Kashmir. In India’s hysterical — and misdirected — reaction to the Pulwama attack lies the very reason why Kashmiris refuse to stop demanding azadi.

A country of more than a billion people has blinded itself to the reality that India’s problem is not Pakistan but its own savage treatment of the people of Occupied Kashmir. This blindness is there for all to see except for those who need to see it the most. And no one perhaps needs to see it more vividly than the Narendra Modi-led BJP government. It’s so-called ‘muscular’ policy has succeeded in alienating even those segments of the Kashmiri population that appeared willing to talk to New Delhi. As a result, security forces were unleashed on the population leading to random killings, abductions, detentions, torture and rape. Humiliation of the Kashmiris became a norm and it was gloated over in the media by hate-mongering TV paper tigers. The BJP-led narrative successfully ‘other-ised’ Kashmiris and fuelled the insurgency which had simmered down in the years past.

By scapegoating Pakistan, India has over the years done itself no favour. It is no secret that the situation on the ground in Occupied Kashmir gradually changed but India’s policy failed to adapt to these changes. When armed insurgents gave way to young unarmed stone-pelters, India failed to see the change and blamed Pakistan; when stone-pelters got the open backing of the local population, India failed to see the change and blamed Pakistan; when Burhan Wani became a symbol of resistance to Indian repression failed to see the change and blamed Pakistan; when Wani’s murder triggered a spontaneous movement against Indian occupation by the population, India failed to see the change and blamed Pakistan; when Indian forces tied a Kashmiri to the bonnet of a jeep and drove around the city of Srinagar, when they tied the body of a Kashmiri martyr to their vehicle and dragged it in the streets, when they forced young schoolboys like Dar to draw lines in the dirt with their noses to humiliate them, India failed to see the change and blamed Pakistan.

Pulwama was bound to happen.

So the rage you see in India today is nothing compared to the rage building up within the Kashmiri population which has been burying its murdered sons and daughters for three decades. If India today is enraged at the killing of four dozen soldiers, then Kashmiris are more enraged for the killing of tens of thousands of their people by the likes of those who perished in the Pulwama attack. What are you supposed to do if your children are blinded by pellet guns and your parents are maimed by custodial torture? Turn the other cheek and say thank you?

Today India finds itself sitting pretty inside a giant bubble of hypocrisy. The tele-warriors frothing at the mouths in their studios in New Delhi and Bombay cut pitiable figures as they writhe in their self-generated agony. As they bay for blood — and for ratings — they are completing the mission that the BJP started — to alienate Kashmiris to the point of no return. If there are any sensible voices in India, they have been completely drowned by the noise of those who have votes to win and ratings to garner.

India has transformed into a republic of delusion.

And this delusion is pushing it further and further towards a reckless action against Pakistan. It is reckless because like the Kashmiris, Pakistan too will not turn the other cheek. If Modi initiates a conflict in any shape, size or form, it will be reciprocated by Pakistan. This much is safe to assume. Once you start climbing the escalatory ladder, all bets are usually off.

Which is why Modi may not want to place a bet whose stakes he cannot control. And which is why a nation of a billion people needs to snap out of its grand delusion and smell the reality of Occupied Kashmir — a reality that cannot be re-manufactured in the plush offices of South Block and well-lit studios of Noida. But this nation of a billion people won’t. It’s so much easier to blame Pakistan.

As usual, the Indians are missing the point.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2019.