Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Is Development a Process of Expanding Freedoms?

An Editorial in the Kashmir Images argues that Freedom and Development are two sides of the same coin

What is Freedom

Historically speaking, economics, a science inherently smitten by the desire to quantify, has often been too narrow in its approach to development. An empirical science, as it is seen, its gurus have all along prioritized the material needs of humankind over equally pressing emotional and psychological needs.

Ironically while discussing what motivates economic growth, which usually entails the use of elaborate equations and complex graphs; when ends and means of sustaining economic progress are suggested, little heed is paid to the intricate interdependence of various needs and the causal factors that are the major stumbling blocks in the way to securing the general welfare of the population. Understandably then, most of what is written about economic problems and development fails to strike a humanistic chord.

It is here in this uncanny world of hard-fact and thick-skinned economic terms, theories, concepts and policies that some economists come in with a new brand of softer, gentler, humane and wise economics emphasizing the importance of social by placing the well-being of humans at center-stage of economic policy so that it is seen as both the goal and the means for development, and not simply a side-effect. By linking the economic progress and development with the political freedoms enjoyed by the people, this brand of economics suggests that political freedoms are, and truly so, subservient to the economic well-being of the population. Indeed the very concept that “freedom promotes development” is a pleasant depart from the conventional wisdom that prioritizes economic growth over political enfranchisement.

Development should be seen as a process of expanding freedoms. "If freedom is what development advances, then there is a major argument for concentrating on that overarching objective, rather than on some particular means, or some chosen list of instruments". To achieve development, therefore requires the removal of poverty, tyranny, lack of economic opportunities, social deprivation, neglect of public services, and the machinery of repression. Unfortunately even when the “freedom” has been much-publicized slogan in Kashmir during the past decade and a half, not even those selling their political merchandize in its wraps have ever bothered to talk about poverty, social and economic opportunities or the issues of public services and utilities. Instead everything has been made secondary to the politics so much so that even the economic hardships of the day-to-day life fail to evoke a stir anywhere.

Unfortunately here again, both separatists as well as mainstream politicians cut a very sorry figure as neither has displayed any understanding of and sincerity toward peoples’ welfare. Understandably, ‘freedom’ has been relegated to a hollow slogan meant for political rhetoric only. Now in the aftermath of the recent ‘economic blockade’ of the valley, together with all sorts of miseries and hardship it brought to the people, it is very much pertinent to expect that the Kashmiri leadership would try and deduce some lasting lessons from it. And they certainly must because people of Kashmir have really paid a very high price of human lives!

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