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Saurabh Kalia’s parents waging a lone battle to highlight war crimes

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Valiant warrior: File photo of Captain Saurabh Kalia with his parents
Valiant warrior: File photo of Captain Saurabh Kalia with his parents

PALAMPUR: Capt Saurabh Kalia, the first to report Pakistani incursion in Kargil in 1999, was taken captive by the Pakistani troops and a few weeks later his mutilated body was handed over to Indian authorities. Ten years on, the martyr’s parents fight a lone battle to highlight war crimes against their son and other Indian soldiers.

N.K. Kalia and his wife Vijaya, who have settled in this town in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, have been waging a war to highlight Pakistani violations of human rights and brutalities committed on their son, Saurabh Kalia, and other soldiers during the Kargil war in 1999.

Saurabh Kalia of 4 Jat Regiment, who was the first Army officer to report incursion by the Pakistani Army on Indian soil, had along with five soldiers - Sepoys Arjun Ram, Bhanwar Lal Bagaria, Bhika Ram, Moola Ram and Naresh Singh - for a routine patrol of the Bajrang Post in the Kaksar sector when they were taken captive by the Pakistani troops May 15, 1999.

They were barbarically tortured for weeks before being killed. Their mutilated bodies were handed over to Indian authorities June 9, 1999.

“Of course, his supreme sacrifice has made us proud, but what has exhausted, disappointed and dejected us is that the nation for which he has sacrificed his life least bothered to highlight the plight of war crimes at the international fora,” N.K. Kalia, 61, a retired senior scientist from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, told IANS.

“We have been shuttling between various government offices and organisations with the hope of highlighting the plight of the war victims. The Indian government has failed to deliver justice as it has forgotten atrocities meted out on six heroes. For days, they were tortured. Their limbs were chopped and bodies burnt,” rued Mr Kalia.

“Though the then Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre expressed concern over the heinous crime and promised to take up the issue at the international level, in all these years the issue got diluted,” he recalled.

“Even today our only demand is that it should keep its promise so that no POWs (prisoners of war) could face Saurabh’s fate. Had this happened to any American or Israeli soldier, the culprits would have been brought to justice.”

Vijaya, who runs an LPG agency allotted by the Indian Oil Corporation to honour his martyrdom, asked: “Is this the way the government treats its heroes?”

To highlight the plight of the war victims, Saurabh Kalia’s father has started an online signature campaign.

“The pain of losing a young son is hard to describe in words. But we feel contended with the fact that many citizens have supported us through online signature campaign. Till date more than 13,000 people have put up their signatures,” N.K. Kalia said.

Saurabh Kalia, who was posted in Kargil as his first posting after passing out of the Indian Military Academy, did not even live long enough to receive his first pay packet as an officer.

Today, his photographs, his uniforms, shoes and mementoes are kept in his room, which has been named ‘Saurabh Smriti Kaksha’ (a museum), in the Kalias’ four-bedroom house in the serene hills of Palampur.

The Himachal Pradesh government as a mark of respect has raised ‘Saurabh Van Vihar’ in a sprawling area of 35 acres here besides renaming a street in the town as Capt Saurabh Kalia Marg. A nursing college in the proposed Vivekanand Medical Research Trust Hospital here is being raised in martyr’s memory. - IANS


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