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Capt. Saurabh Kalia: Remembering Kargil war hero

By: V Sundaram, IAS, Retd.
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“And they who for their country die
Shall fill an honoured grave,
For glory lights the soldier’s tomb
And beauty weeps the brave.
- Joseph Rodman Brake

“A glorious death is his
Who for his country falls”
- Homer in his "Iliad’ in 1000 B.C.

When I spoke over the phone this morning to Dr N K Kalia (living in Saurabh Nagar, Palampur - 176061 in Himachal Pradesh), father of Martyr Capt Saurabh Kalia who was brutally tortured and murdered following his capture by Pakistani Army in Kargil War in May 1999, I was moved to inconsolable tears.

Capt. Saurabh Kalia laid down his life in Kargil war at the prime age of 22; serving for a very short period of less than 5 months. His title to eternal fame and glory lies in the fact that he was the first officer to detect and inform about Pakistani intrusion in Kargil area while doing his patrols in the first fortnight of May, 99.

Pakistani army captured Capt Saurabh Kalia and his patrol alive on 15th May, 99 from the Indian side of Line Of Control (LOC) perhaps after an encounter. They were in Pakistani custody and captivity for about 3 weeks and subjected to unprecedented brutal torture as evident from the condition of their bodies when they were handed over by the Pakistan Army on 9 June, 1999.

The Preliminary Death Certificate shown below and issued on 9th June 1999 is self-explanatory. The Pakistani Army Officers and Soldiers, with their Islamic commitment to compassionate Islam (which seems to have caused no loss of sleep to our ever vigilant Prime Minister!), indulged in the most dastardly acts of burning his body with cigarettes, removing his eyes before puncturing them, breaking most of the bones of his battered body and teeth.

Capt. Kalia along with Sq Ldr Ahuja and four others fought the real battle of Kargil unarmed for 22 days undergoing the worst kind of physical torture known in post-war Indian Military History. In a savage and cowardly manner, the Pakistan Army shot them dead ultimately. These irrefutable facts were brought to light following a detailed post-mortem conducted later at New Delhi. Thus, Pakistan army dared to flout all international cannons of War Law and Justice incorporated in the Geneva Convention to which both India and Pakistan are signatories.

I have seen the detailed autopsy report and am convinced that Capt. Kalia Sq Ldr Ahuja and their men were subjected to the most heinous form of brutal torture by the Pakistani Army before they were shot dead.

Pakistan Government denied and dismissed these allegations arguing that it was the handiwork of Mujaheedins and Pakistan army or Government had nothing to do with this incident. The Skardu Radio in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir broke the news of their capture but the Director General Military Operations of Pakistan Army denied when repeatedly contacted by the Indian counterpart.

Interestingly, Pakistan showed scant concern for their own men and even refused to take back the bodies of their own soldiers numbering in hundreds and Indian army had to bury them with due honours during Kargil war. One wonders what prompted the Pakistan army to risk their men to pull back the bodies of ONLY THESE SIX INDIAN SOLDIERS from gorges several hundred feet deep? The autopsy reports of these soldiers confirmed that the injuries were inflicted ante-mortem as published in the entire Indian press.

Having lost badly in the military sphere, Pakistan outsmarted India in the diplomatic sphere by releasing the captured Flt Lt Nachiketa before the world media even while India, in a shamelessly routine manner, took over from Pakistan army the immensely tortured bodies of Sq Ldr Ahuja, Capt Kalia and other soldiers quietly without a fuss. When Capt Kalia’s body was flown from Kargil to New Delhi for detailed autopsy to determine the extent of torture and mutilation, Government could not garner the support of any foreign media or international human rights organizations during the examination.

Referring to the irresponsible and indifferent attitude of mass media, Dr. N K Kalia told me:“A few high profile editors from Indian press tried to disparage this incident. When a rejoinder was sent by me, only Shri Vinod Mehta (The Outlook) kindly replied that the PakistanForeign Minister had mentioned about the extreme torture not mutilation of the body and Mr. Praful Bidwai (The Mid-day) published my letter while some others did not have the courtesy to acknowledge my letter; leave alone replying or publishing mine rejoinder

Perhaps those who were present while the autopsy was conducted in Delhi, found only torturing and wrote to denigrate the Indian Government. and as if torturing of Prisoners Of War (POWs) was sanctified in their opinion. Sadly, army’s spokesperson did not send any rejoinder National Human Rights Commission remarked that it cannot handle this case on account of some technicalities.

Most of the Indian Human Rights organizations did not raise this issue on any platform. We are, however, overwhelmed by the unprecedented public support. The love, respect, honour and a deep sense of belonging showered on us by innumerable persons during the last over seven years through their deeply felt sentiments have been extraordinary. Over 1.25 lac e-mails and over 40,000 written letters apart from several persons visiting or calling from India or abroad vouch for that. .

Destiny played a cruel joke on Capt. Sarabh Kalia — great believer in LORD BAJRANG BALI (HANUMAN JI) — and incidentally he got captured at the BAJRANG POST and laid down his life in the "OPERATION VIJAY’, the name of his mother being, Mrs Vijay Kalia. Last words of this valiant soldier to his mother before going to Kargil were "MAA, TUM DEKHNA EK DIN AISA KAAM KARUNGA KI SAARI DUNIA MEIN MERA NAAM HOGA’ (Mother, you will see one day I will do such a deed that the whole world will acknowledge that).

The whole nation offered its salutation to this heroic and selfless son of Bharat Matha.

The Himachal Pradesh Government, as a mark of respect, has raised "SAURABH VAN VIHAR’ in a sprawling area of 35 acres in Palampur Town, in addition to renaming the road to Dr. Kalia’s house as CAPT SAURABH KALIA MARG and the area, SAURABH NAGAR (earlier known as Sugghar). Besides, a Nursing College in the proposed Vivekanand Hospital, Palampur is being raised, at the cost of 80 crores in Capt Saurabh Kalia’s fond memory.

Crooked and corrupt Indian Politicians (mostly belonging to the Congress Party) have been constructing innumerable statues and memorials at public cost to perpetuate their dastardly public deeds of crime and infamy. They have no time or grace or heart for the unmourned and unsung heroes of our Armed Forces who have laid down their lives for the safety and integrity of our Motherland. Thousands of Indian Soldiers have died fighting for our Country after our independence. No memorial has been raised for them. All the War Memorials in India were raised during the days of British Raj.

Every war after independence has been viewed as a SKIRMISH from the point of view of the Armed Forces and as great WARS for National Liberation from the point of view of our wicked unpatriotic politicians. That is how Nehru became the Hero of the Kashmir War in 1947, and the Chinese War in 1962; Lal Bahadur Shastri in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965; and Indira Gadhi in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971. That is why 93,000 Pakistan Soldiers taken as prisoners by the Great General Arora and his heroic men, were returned in a shamelessly submissive manner to Pakistan by Indira Gandhi.

Her egoism was such that whenever she was attending a wedding, she wanted to replace the bride; and whenever she was attending a funeral she wanted to replace the corpse. All our politicians (particularly Congress) are mortally scared of Muslims of India and Pakistan. That is the reason they always fight shy of declaring our Martyrs from the Armed Forces of India as War Heroes and build memorials for them.

Any act of Islamic Terrorism – either in India or outside – is viewed by them as acts of grace and compassion.

The I World War inspired many patriotic poets to come out with immortal lines of poetry. Laurence Binyon (1869 -1 943), the poet and art critic, wrote the greatest war poem called For The Fallen (1914) which was first published in The Times in September, 1914. I would like to pay tribute to Capt Saurabh Kalia in the deathless words of Laurence Binyon:

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

V Sundaram, IAS, Retd.

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