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A Strategic Myth

‘Underdevelopment’ in Jammu and Kashmir

Sehar Iqbal

Foreword by Andrew Whitehead

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A Strategic Myth

Despite being in the news near-constantly, Jammu and Kashmir has been woefully misrepresented – whether by liberal politicians in India who have portrayed the erstwhile state as a dangerous frontier state in need of a strong security response, or by right-wing politicians who have been spinning a narrative about the land being plagued by underdevelopment. The first of these stems from a top–down version of security that gives precedence to the promotion of state security at the expense of human security. The second comes from a redefining of corporate interests as development concerns, which has become ubiquitous. Both are wrong-headed.

This study challenges commonly held misconceptions about the region and brings to light its achievements during the state-led developmental process of Jammu and Kashmir from 1948 to 1988, thus bridging a gap in scholarship concerning this process and the relationship between the political history and social development of the region.

Contextualizing development in Jammu and Kashmir since 1947 when it became free from princely rule, the study augments the macroeconomic view with village studies documenting the human experience of policy changes. It puts forward a composite picture of development, directly challenging the politically motivated, false narrative of 'underdevelopment'.

The book also sheds further light on the adverse effects of the crackdown since 5 August 2019 on civil liberties and the internet, on the economy, and on education and health. With the Covid-19-induced lockdown adding to these obstructions, it is clear that direct rule by the central government is no panacea for development in Jammu and Kashmir. Rather, it is an assault on the gains in economic and social development that Jammu and Kashmir has achieved so far.

Andrew Whitehead

Andrew Whitehead is a well-known historian and former BBC India correspondent.

Sehar Iqbal

SEHAR IQBAL is an independent researcher working at the intersection between research and grassroot development work in Jammu and Kashmir. She completed her PhD in Development Economics in 2018 under the supervision of Professor Jean Drèze. Her doctoral research was on Human Development Indicators in Jammu and Kashmir. For her work on reducing infant deaths in the Kashmir valley she received the Women’s Scholarship at the University of Oxford, where she is currently researching solutions for delivering quality education to children of nomadic communities in Jammu and Kashmir. She is a founding Fellow of the India Pakistan Regional Young Leaders Initiative (IPRYLI) administered by the Asia Society, Rockefeller Foundation – a programme that  encourages youth in the two countries to work together on public service delivery projects. Sehar Iqbal is the mother of two sons and lives in Budgam, Kashmir.