By Khan Arif
The story of economic development in Kashmir is pathetic; neither the wealth of the ‘nation’ nor the youth are contributing to the economic development. The thinking of young generation in Kashmir is paralyzed by the combined effects of the political imbroglio, the high rate of unemployment, the police recklessness, that in turn have been contributing to the vile quandary of today’s youth in Kashmir. Growing up in the shadows of conflict, people are witness to several baffling narratives engraved in their minds. This has emotionally paralyzed minds of youth and has made them feel insecure about their future. Struggling economy, stunted agriculture and distressed industrial sector in the region has added to the agony.
Conflict leads to an interruption of the production process and trade, massive capital flight and the destruction of infrastructure. They also lead to a breakdown of administrative and social structures, institutions, and the flight of human/capital through migration and the destruction of education and health care services and so on. The political situation of Kashmir has led to constant curfew and strikes and kind of institutional arrangements that the policy regime has a direct impact on the state’s economy.
The picturesque scenery of Kashmir is one of the essential resources and a direct source of livelihood to a significant number of the population – from hoteliers and houseboat owners the shikarawallas, artisans and craftsman. For decades, it had been the pillar of the local economy. Historically, it has been a significant contributor to the state’s GDP as ‘The Planning and Development Department of the Government estimates that nearly up to thirty per cent of the state’s population directly or indirectly benefits from tourism.’
The severity of the conflict can be understood by the detrimental effect that it has had on the economy and its prolonged nature. The massive inflow of resources from New Delhi has failed to quell the violence in valley. India’s pattern of spending in Kashmir may be considered as counterproductive. The expenditure has been concentrated towards rooting out anti-India activism through military operations. One may argue that a more job creating approach which also focussed on the development of infrastructure may have led to a decline in the conflict by increasing the ‘opportunity cost of violence’. Yet, the spending allocation is unlikely to be the only cause of the perpetuation of violence. India has used similar measures in the past and met with reasonable success.
The fresh outbreak of mass protests by students, which turned violent and brutal suppression by security agencies following the grave injuries and killings of student by police, prods the question: Why does the Valley explode time and again? The Valley has become a place, where normalcy has a novel definition and the vicious cycle of violence punctuated by spells of calm is the ‘new normal’.
Ruling parties always comes up with clumsy excuses that all this happen because of past. Do politicians ever mull about the past? Do they ever learn from past? The answer seems to be no. They remain divorced from reality, even though involvement of some vested interests in the insurgency cannot be entirely denied.
Last summer Kashmir unrest, which witnessed an increasing spiral of anger and the re-counting of horrifying pellet gun injuries now government is thinking to replace pellets with plastic pellets. People have been blinded killed and maimed in hundreds and thousands. Instead of replacing pellets, government should make effective peace building initiatives.
Such kind of responses not only causes provocation among people but they also add a seal of perpetuity to the already absolute culture of impunity drilled through the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA. Because of this Kashmir has been central to the deepening sense of humiliation, injury, alienation, anger and frustration.
Posing a question to my friend Suhail (name changed) as to why there is a shift in movement in Kashmir., he answered that the “the Indian government did not react like a civilised state, which would be clearly seen through their actions and reactions. Sometimes you hear talk of how the state exercised restraint but there’s no evidence of that. Their attempt for peace building process is but of joke. By the end of the summer, it left an entire population brutalised, hurt, and fatigued.”
In contemporary times, this is erosion in the creed of ‘democracy’ and this has been threatened by the state itself. This process needs to be stemmed and corrective measures should be taken immediately. One specific step would be to take measures to resolve the conflict.
—The author is a research scholar at Department of History and Culture, Jamia Millia Islamia. He can be reached at: [email protected]