Here is a snap quiz:
Who was Ashwani Kumar Garyali?
Who was Anil Bhan?
Who was Princy?
Who was Professor Kanhaya Lal Ganjoo?
Who was Mrs Prana Ganjoo?
Yes, I know, I know you are not able to recognise any of these names. Frankly speaking I do not even expect you to recognise any of these names. These names do not belong to any political leaders. These names do not belong to any film or media or sports celebrities. So how could I even expect you to answer this quiz?
So who are these individuals anyway?
Sorry. Should I say who these individuals were?
Yes. In your eyes, they probably existed. From your perspective, they are probably part of history. In your minds, they have probably passed away to heavenly abodes. Yes. Yes and Yes. Yes, they have passed away to their heavenly abodes. Yes, they are part of history.
But in the eyes of their families, they still exist.
They still exist because they are part of their families.
They still exist because they are in the hearts and minds of their loved ones.
They still exist because they never left the ones they cherished.
Their bodies left but their souls, their memories, their messages, their convictions, their beliefs, their values, their commitments are still with their friends and family.
They are the symbols of ultimate sacrifice. They are epitome of gallantry.
Yes, my dear readers, they are The Unsung Heroes.
They are the Kashmiri Hindus, who sacrificed their lives in Kashmir because they believed in one particular faith.
They are the ones who paid dearly for their belief in the Indian tricolour.
They are the tutors who taught their pupils without imagining that the same pupils will turn out to be their killers.
They are the doctors who nursed their patients without realising that the same patients will come back to take their lives.
They are the little boys and girls who could not imagine the dark side of their playmates from the neighbourhood.
They are the friends who could never imagine that their closest friend would be the one to show up at their door with an AK-47.
Yes, my dear readers, they are The Unsung Heroes.
And unfortunately they are the Forgotten Ones and the Forsaken Ones.
The nation that they represented has forgotten them.
The faith that they represented has forsaken them.
The ideals that they died for do not mean anything to our political leaders. The sacrifices these individuals made mean nothing to our ruling class.
They were the pawns of this great game of chess between India and Pakistan.
Unfortunately the game has not ended yet.
Even today, the survivors of these unsung heroes are treated with disdain.
Even after 14 years since this community was ethnically cleansed from its home in the valley of Kashmir, this community of 700,000 Kashmiri Hindus still lives like refugees in its own country.
Till date, no government, no human rights monitoring agency, no non-governmental organisation has seriously taken up the issue of human rights violations against this community.
The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the crime of genocide in New York, in 1948, declared genocide as a crime under international law.
The Convention defined genocide as any act committed with the idea of destroying in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. This includes such acts as:
- Killing members of the group .
- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.
- Deliberately inflicting conditions calculated to physically destroy the group (the whole group or even part of the group).
- Forcefully transferring children of the group to another group.
As per this UN definition of genocide, there is no reason why the ethnic cleansing perpetrated against Kashmiri Hindus should not be treated as genocide. There is no reason why the people and countries behind this act of genocide should not be held responsible and criminally prosecuted.
But who cares about Kashmiri Hindus? Not a soul.
Kashmiri Hindus observe September 14 every year as Martyr's Day to pay homage to their fallen heroes and I pay my respects and homage to all these innocent souls whose lives were cut short and whose dreams were shattered by the scourge of menacing terror.
Today, I appeal to all those who believe in freedom of religion, who believe in freedom of expression, who believe in fundamental rights of humanity, to please take two minutes of your time and remember these innocent souls.
Tonight, when you get home after a tiring day of hard work, please take a moment and light a candle in your house to remember these noble souls.
Tonight, please spend a minute in silence and pray for their peace. This is the least we can do for those who sacrificed their lives so that we can stay alive and be free.
Today, I appeal to one and all to spend few hours educating themselves of the atrocities inflicted upon this community of peace loving human beings. Please use your knowledge of this recent-day genocide to educate others and use your voice to express your outrage against this continuing persecution of Kashmiri Hindus.
About 13 years ago, after spending 15 months on one specific project, at the time of my departure, one of my close friends gave me a farewell card. It said:
'Can't you please go without leaving?'
I wish I could say the same to these Unsung Heroes -- The Forgotten Ones.
Sharnarthi is a freelance journalist, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org