The economy of conflict and the conflict of economy!
All the discussions and debates in Kashmir tend to unanimously focus on the political crisis and the conflict which has been raging on here for several decades now. While there is no denying of the fact that politics has predominantly remained the subject matter here, the issues concerning our economics have tragically either found no takers or remained subservient to everything else. Part of the reason for such a drift is gauged from the political obsession that has trapped the people in Kashmir so badly that we have been overly ignoring the evident economic problems that continue to stare us in the face.
What concerns and interests the people and politicians here is politics alone while economics, which has traditionally, world over, had a strong bearing and influence on nearly all conflicts as well as the possible resolutions, is something which is least heard and discussed in Kashmir.
Let’s consider the example of the multi-crore fruit business in Kashmir that forms the major chunk of Kashmir economy. Never have I found the politicians, all-inclusive, talking about the institutionalization of fruit sector in Kashmir which continues to remain moribund, besides witnessing crisis at various levels.
There has been a drastic decline in the Apple production here, and more worsening is the vanishing of farm-lands and some varieties of fruits. The fruit business is so badly in debt that the majority of the people (read farmers) associated with it just manage to pay the interest of banks, and expecting their upliftment is a pie in the sky for them.
Like any other business, the fruit business also has its own elite class which thrives on the despairing condition of the downtrodden; this is something which lay bare the rampant economic inequality in Kashmir
More to the point, the tourism sector of Kashmir receives undue attention and promotion, is it because the same benefits and concerns the haves of our society? One may question! Having presumed so, why the government is not spending crores for the promotion and upliftment of fruit business which is the bread and butter of the masses and forms the core of our overall economy- way too bigger than tourism sector?
Where does the problem lie?
As we continue our struggle for the political freedom, we tend to miss out at a crisis which might leave us in such a bad shape that even freedom may not be able to heal. We are heading towards severe economic dependence and no intellectual class is heard deliberating about the issues- as if it doesn’t qualify a discussion.
We tend to wake up to our economic losses only when the same are rendered by others – chopping of apple trees in Shopian is a case to consider which drew much outcry and criticism – but we never try to consider our own role in ruining the economic status of Kashmir province by keeping our senses shut to the plight. What makes the problem more worse is that due to the absence of economic institutions, the scope for assessing our economic and financial losses is at individual levels only and not at institutional levels.
While doing some reading for this article, I came across a piece, which I have referred to, in order to take a cue about the economic future of Kashmir given the circumstances here. Published in ‘Foreign Policy’ headlined “Gazans Are Protesting Their Economy, Not Israel’s Existence” which says, “A United Nations report that was published in 2012 projected that Gaza will not be liveable by 2020.” What made the Gazans to reach this deplorable state? After remaining under the siege of Israel for over eleven years, and then being subjected to three major wars between Hamas and Israel in 2008, 2012, and 2014; Gazans were made to follow their political aspirations, while they remained ignorant about their growing economic woes.
As the title of the piece suggests, Gazans are now desperate about their economic woes that have made their life miserable, whereas their struggle for achieving political ends has taken a backseat. We should very much afraid that we are heading towards the same fate in Kashmir.
There is an important dissimilarity between the economic crisis in Gaza and the one that is in the making in Kashmir that is to say: Gazans have very less control over their economy as they are facing sanctions and blockades of Israel, but we are fortunate enough for not facing such punitive measures and possess a good control over economic activities. What we need to ask ourselves is that: is it our incompetence and clumsiness that is dragging towards the economic crisis?
Political over-excitation has ruined us
We are fond of touting the idea that Kashmiris are politically conscious. We just count the “political miles” that the politician have helped us to tread but why don’t we count the setbacks that the same politicians have inflicted on us. The only yardstick available to us for judging a politician is that of politics but have we ever attempted to base a politician’s performance on our economic betterment.
The kind of politics that is being exercised with regard to Kashmir conflict is so disarrayed that the lines between what is a sacrifice and what is loss have been badly blurred. As a result the common people continue to win applauds from the so-called leaders about the sacrifices, as they celebrate it, but do we have any gains to celebrate?
The author is a student of International Relations (Peace and Conflict Studies) can be reached at [email protected]