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.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Kashmir at Crossroads - 1

An editorial in the Kashmir Images unravels what the struggle in Kashmir is not about

‘Freedom first…’

Historically speaking, economics, a science inherently smitten with the desire to quantify, has often been too narrow in its approach to development. An empirical science, as it has evolved, economic gurus have always had a knack for prioritizing material needs of humankind over the 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 means are suggested towards the end of sustaining economic progress, 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. Needless to say the mammoth economic figures that are cited every now and then by the governments in Srinagar and Delhi as being pumped in Kashmir to cure its ills, have failed to bring about any change in the situation on ground here.

It is here in this uncanny world of hard-fact and thick-skinned economic terms, theories, concepts and policies that economists like Amartya Sen 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 the center-stage of economic policy so that it is seen as both the end and the means for development, 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," suggests Sen. 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 couple of decades, 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. Had it not been so, then of course the developments of past over a month, which have more-or-less halted the normal life processes in Kashmir would not have happened in the first place.

Both separatists as well as mainstream political leaders cut a very sorry figure on this count 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 with all the major players in the Kashmir’s political amphitheatre just paying a token lip-service to it. While the political elite has ensured every kind of freedom for themselves and their ilk, common masses on the other hand have been deprived of whatever little bit of freedoms they enjoyed - political as well as economic!

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