I.K. Gujral, former prime minister
Leila Seth, former chief justice
N.N. Vohra, former home secretary
K.Shankar Bajpai, former ambassador
Arun Bharat Ram, industrialist
Ved Marwah, former governor
R.K.P. Shankardass, Supreme Court lawyer
When soldiers die on the battlefield, the nation grieves and special relief funds are set up, memorials are built, and donations flood in for the shaheed jawan. But what about those soldiers who sacrifice their lives in peacetime, as they plunge into rescue and relief operations when natural disasters strike? Following the October earthquake in Jammu & Kashmir, the Indian army and air force brought succour and hope to the devastated state with the speed and efficiency of their search-and-rescue missions. When the tsunami struck in December 2004, it was the Indian navy which shouldered the burden of rescue and relief operations, not just in India but also in Sri Lanka.
In the earthquake relief operations in high-altitude areas like Tangdhar, the army and air force managed to evacuate 770 people and rescue another 1,165. But close to 150 Indian military personnel died in the quake—brave men who made the ultimate sacrifice, but whose names will never be counted among our war heroes. In fact, those who sacrifice their lives and extend themselves to help their countrymen do not even find the kind of media attention they rightly deserve.
Luckily, B.G. Verghese, Magsaysay Award-winning journalist and former editor of The Hindustan Times, and seven friends have launched an appeal they call ‘Unknown Indians for the Unknown Soldier’. "We salute those who fall in battle with medals and glory. But where is the recognition for those who die for the country in...