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SAGA OF JUSTICE:24 YEARS AND COUNTING

SAGA OF JUSTICE: On the unfaithful day of 9th June,1999 a father received the body of his martyred son. The body was unrecognizable,

SAGA OF JUSTICE: On the unfaithful day of 9th June,1999 a father received the body of his martyred son. The body was unrecognizable, with a broken skull, ear drums pierced with a hot iron rod, eyes punctured, genitals cut off, body burned with cigarette buts, limbs dismantled, broken teeth, lips, and nose cut off. The body was of Captain Saurabh Kalia, son of Dr. N.K. Kalia.

Captain Kalia’s brother recognized the body, he once recalled “Saurabh’s face was the size of my fingers, his eyebrows were the only visible feature, no eyes, no jaw, there were cigarette burns… it was very bad. My parents couldn’t have seen him.”

Portrait of Captain Saurabh Kalia, the first martyr of the Kargil war. ( Image: Google)

We all know about Operation Vijay or the Kargil war of 1999, we know about India’s victory in the war, but do we care to know about the soldiers who laid their lives for the victory we celebrate every year. We pay our respects to the soldiers, but it is equally important to know their story. Today I’m writing about Captain Saurabh Kalia, whose family still awaits justice. They are still waiting for their son’s martyrdom to be recognized.

What is Captain Saurabh Kalia’s story, let’s dive into history and learn about Captain Kalia, the first Martyr of the Kargil war.

This year we marked 24 years of Operation Vijay, turning the pages back to May 1999, when the war was still a conflict.

Young twenty-two-year-old Captain Kalia was commissioned into the 4th Battalion of the Jat Regiment of the Indian Army in 1998, his regiment was deployed in the Kaksar area, just short of Kargil overlooking the National Highway 1D.

There is an unsaid understanding between India and Pakistan when both countries leave the high-altitude posts during winter and re-occupy the posts in summer when the snow is gone.

That year in early May unusual movements were recorded in the Batalik-Yaldor sector consequently, all the Units started aggressive patrolling in their respective areas.

The coffin with Captain Kalia’s body with his Service Number, Name, and Regiment. (Image: Google)

On 15th May 1999, Captain Saurabh Kalia was tasked to lead a patrol to Bajrang post, which was part of 4 Jats but was vacated during harsh winters. Captain Kalia with five soldiers led a patrol to Bajrang post as per plan. The patrolling team came under heavy crossfire with Pakistani forces across the LOC, they reported the matter and asked for reinforcement when they were out of ammunition. However, before reinforcement could arrive Captain Kalia and his troops were captured alive by the Platoon of Pakistani Rangers. The Indian side launched a search operation to locate the soldiers but was unable to do so. Meanwhile, Radio Skardu of Pakistan announced that Pakistani troops had captured Captain Saurabh Kalia.

Captain Kalia and his troops were held captive for almost twenty-two days from 15th May 1999 to 7th June 1999. They were subject to extreme torture, which was evident from their bodies which were handed over to the families on 9th June 1999.

Also Read: WAR, POWs and WITNESSES

Captain Saurabh Kalia’s family is still seeking justice from the government and highlighting the war crimes committed against their son and other soldiers. The act carried out by the Pakistan army was a violation of the Geneva Convention. Dr. N.K.Kalia wants the act to be declared a war crime by the UN.

The Indian government has tried to hold Pakistan accountable for the deed, in 1999 the Pakistan government denied the charges. Again in 2012, Pakistan’s interior minister said that Captain Kalia may have died because of extreme weather conditions. In 2013 the matter was again raised in the parliament by Mr. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, in response the then defence minister A.K. Antony wrote to Captain Kalia’s parents that the government is bound by the Shimla Agreement and any differences with Pakistan would be settled bilaterally.

In 2014, the Supreme Court of India took up a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Dr. N.K.Kalia, the Supreme Court asked the center to file an affidavit, but the affidavit challenged the petition stating a PIL could not seek action against a foreign country.

After numerous attempts and continuous battles, justice is still denied to Captain Kalia and five soldiers, Sepoy Arjunram Baswana, Mula Ram Bidiasar, Naresh Singh Sinsinwar, Bhanwar Lal Bagaria, and Bhika Ram Mudh.

This is the story of 1st martyr of the Kargil war, whose story is unheard, untold, and suppressed. This is the story of Captain Saurabh Kalia, a 22-year-old young officer from Palampur, Himachal Pradesh, who laid his life for the country, and whose family still seeks justice after twenty-four years of his demise.

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