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Ethan Casey

An Ambiguous Rebellion

In a remote corner of our seamless world better known to most Americans as a kind of sweater than as a place, the superficially straightforward work of journalism has compelled me to re-examine fundamentally my own heritage as an American and a Christian. In the hopeless tangle of political, moral, and above all factual ambiguity that is the separatist rebellion in Kashmir, I believe I have achieved, if nothing else, a new personal lucidity.

What Kashmiris (and, along for the rhetorical ride, Pakistanis) call "the freedom struggle" and Indian apologists call "Pak-sponsored fundamentalist terrorism" can readily be likened to the American Revolution, though Kashmir lacks the geographic advantages of an ocean separating it from the claimed oppressor and an as-yet-unplundered continent at its back. It is difficult to distinguish Patrick Henry's call for liberty or death from what Kashmiris believe they are insisting on. Like the Americans of 1776, Kashmiris want something they call "freedom," or azaadi. "Basically, it is a revolution," Yaseen Malik, the young president of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (jklf), one of the largest and most "moderate" of many separatist groups, told me of the armed uprising that began in 1989. "We can't achieve things overnight. Our goal is complete freedom of Jammu and Kashmir. Until then, we will continue our movement."

And why not? Kashmiris were, after all, promised certain things that have conspicuously failed to materialize over 50 years of diplomatic, political, and military confrontation between India and Pakistan, neither of which inspires much spontaneous warmth in the majority of proverbially "fiercely independent" Kashmiris. A glance at a map shows the problem's true fulcrum: Kashmir was in the wrong place at the wrong time. In 1947 the Indian National Congress of Gandhi and Nehru was preparing to govern a new, independent, "secular" India, and Mohammed Ali Jinnah's Muslim League was insisting (unhelpfully and implausibly, ...

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