|Born||29 June 1976|
Amritsar, Punjab, India
|Died||9 June 1999 (aged 22)|
Kargil, Jammu and Kashmir, India
|Allegiance||Republic of India|
|Years of service||1998–1999|
Captain Saurabh Kalia (1976–1999) was an officer of the Indian Army who was killed during the Kargil War while being held as a prisoner of war by the Pakistan Army. He along with five other soldiers of his patrolling team were captured alive and kept in captivity where they were allegedly tortured, and then killed by Pakistan Army. Pakistan has, however, denied torturing any Indian army personnel.
Captain Saurabh Kalia was born on 29 June 1976 in Amritsar, Punjab, India, to Mrs. Vijaya and Dr. N. K. Kalia. His schooling took place in the D.A.V Public School Palampur. Saurabh graduated in (BSc Med.) from H. P. Agricultural University, Palampur, Himachal Pradesh in 1997. He excelled at school, securing first Division and winning scholarships throughout his academic career.
Captain Saurabh Kalia was selected for the Indian Military Academy, in August 1997 through Combined Defence Services exam conducted by UPSC and was commissioned on 12 December 1998. His first posting was in the 4th battalion Jat Regiment (4 Jat) in the Kargil Sector. Saurabh arrived there in mid-January 1999 after reporting at the Jat Regimental Centre, Bareilly, on 31 December 1998.
In the first two weeks of May 1999, several patrols were conducted in the Kaksar Langpa area of Kargil district to check whether the snow had retreated enough for the summer positions to be re-occupied. Lt Saurabh Kalia was the first Indian army officer to observe and report large-scale intrusion of Pakistani Army and foreign mercenaries on the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC) at Kargil. He assumed guard of "Bajrang Post" at 13,000–14,000 feet to check infiltration in the Kaksar area.
On 15 May 1999 Lt Saurabh Kalia and five other soldiers – Sepoys Arjun Ram, Bhanwar Lal Bagaria, Bhika Ram, Moola Ram and Naresh Singh of the 4 Jat Regiment had gone for a routine patrol of the Bajrang Post in the Kaksar sector in the rugged, treeless Ladakh mountains. After a continuous cross fire with Pakistan armed forces from across the LOC, he and his troops ran out of ammunition. They were finally encircled by a platoon of Pakistani rangers and captured alive before Indian reinforcements could reach them. No trace of the patrol was left, meanwhile Radio Skardu of Pakistan announced that Captain Saurabh Kalia had been captured by Pakistani troops. It was after this that India discovered hundreds of guerrillas had established fortified positions on the peaks of the hills deep inside the Indian side of the Line of control, with sophisticated equipment and supply lines back to Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
Indian officials claim that, Lt Saurabh Kalia and his men were in captivity from 15 May 1999 – 7 June 1999 (over twenty-two days), and were subjected to torture as evident from injuries to their bodies when they were handed over by the Pakistani Army on 9 June 1999. Post-mortem examinations conducted by India, revealed that the Pakistanis had tortured their prisoners by: burning their bodies with cigarettes, piercing the ear-drums with hot rods, puncturing eyes before removing them, breaking most of their teeth and bones, fracturing their skulls, cutting the lips, chipping of nose, chopping off limbs and private organs of the soldiers, and finally shooting them dead, as evidenced by bullet wounds to the temple. The post-mortem also confirmed the injuries were inflicted ante-mortem (before death). However, there was no independent international observer at the postmortem.
On 15 June 1999 the Deputy High Commissioner of the Pakistani Embassy in New Delhi was summoned, and a notice of breach of the Geneva Convention was submitted for the torture and killing of the prisoners of war during the Kargil War. The Minister of External Affairs Jaswant Singh raised the issue with Sartaj Aziz, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan for the identification and punishment of the guilty, but Pakistan continued to deny the charges of torture.
On 14 December 2012 Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik expressed that Lt Saurabh Kalia may have died because of weather conditions. He said that he came to know about Lt Saurabh Kalia's case very recently, and added that it is not known whether he was killed with a Pakistani bullet or died because of the weather. He also said he would like to meet Lt Saurabh Kalia's father to find out what exactly had happened with his son. The same day, the Supreme Court issued notice to the Centre and sought response within ten weeks on a petition filed by Lt Saurabh Kalia's father.
Efforts by family
More than a decade since their son's death, Capt Saurabh Kalia's family has continued trying to get justice from the government, and to highlight the war crimes that were committed against their son Saurabh and other Indian soldiers. N. K. Kalia, his father has been following his son's case and wants the act to be declared a war crime by the UN, and the people responsible for the war crimes punished as per the rulings of the Geneva Convention. However, he stated that he has failed to achieve this despite “shuttling between various government offices and organisations."
"I am ashamed of being an Indian. The country has spineless leaders," said N. K. Kalia. "Though the then Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance 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. He also started an online signature campaign to highlight the plight of the war victims.
Capt Saurabh Kalia's father approached various national and international organisations to put pressure on Pakistan to identify, book and punish the persons responsible for the crime of keeping his son in captivity for three weeks and torturing him.
He received replies from embassies and high commission of various countries.
N. K. Kalia said that if such events had happened to an American or Israeli soldier then the culprits would have been hounded around the globe. Despite assurances from the government, the case is still pending and his family plans to pursue the case till the end.
N. K. Kalia's petition was pursued by Rajeev Chandrasekhar, (MP) who wrote to the External Affairs Minister and raised questions in Parliament on why the Government has not taken up the case of Capt Saurabh Kalia with the UNHRC, to declare this act a war crime, identify, and punish all the perpetrators. In response to a question raised by Chandrasekhar, Defence Minister A. K. Antony wrote to Capt Kalia's parents in October 2013 that India was bound by the Simla Agreement, and any differences with Pakistan will be settled bilaterally.
"In order to declare a war crime, the Ministry of Defence needs to write to the Ministry of External Affairs, which then takes up the matter with the UNHRC. The council then refers the matter to the General Assembly, which can declare war crime. It then goes to the international court of justice (ICJ). It is the ministry of external affairs that did not follow up the case with the UN" said Colonel (retd) S. K. Aggarwal, former Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer. An affidavit filed by the External Affairs ministry in November 2013, said that "moving the ICJ is not a legally enforceable right" and that Pakistan may not permit India submitting a proposal to ICJ.
Indian Army Chief General Bikram Singh has also supported the efforts of Saurabh Kalia's father. He reportedly wrote to the Ministry of Defence and National Human Rights Commission conveying his concerns in the matter.
N. K. Kalia, along with Rajeev Chandrasekhar, and the Flags of Honour Foundation, (an organisation dedicated to building ceaseless engagement between society and the families of martyrs), filed a petition with the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) against war crimes and the torture inflicted on Lt Saurabh Kalia and the five jawans by Pakistani forces during the Kargil War in 1999. The petition was filed on 7 December 2012, with Juan E. Méndez, Special Rapporteur on Torture, of the Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights in Geneva. The Indian External Affairs Ministry said it would look at the nature of the petition, as the UNHRC is an inter-state body and usually acts only in terms of initiatives taken by its member states.
Following the formation of the Narendra Modi ministry, the Supreme Court took up public interest litigation (PIL) in September 2014, filed by N. K. Kalia and Sarwa Mitter, and asked the Centre to file an affidavit within six weeks. The Court wanted to know the stand of the new regime, and wondered why the government had not approached the International Court of Justice. The government's affidavit filed in the Supreme Court listed the measures taken by the previous UPA government, and did not list out any proposed steps by the NDA government. The affidavit challenged the petition saying a PIL cannot seek action against a foreign country, and that foreign policy is a government function.
Capt Saurabh Kalia's personal belongings such as photographs, uniforms, shoes and mementoes are kept in a separate room, named 'Saurabh Smriti Kaksha' (a museum), in his house 'Saurabh Niketan' in the hills of Palampur.
In his memory the government of Himachal Pradesh state raised a memorial park named 'Saurabh Van Vihar' in an area of 35 acres (14 ha) in Palampur and renamed a street in the town 'Capt Saurabh Kalia Marg', and the locality as 'Saurabh Nagar'. A nursing college in the proposed Vivekanand Medical Research Trust Hospital in Palampur has been raised in his memory. In Amritsar Kaliya's statue has been erected in a memorial. A Liquefied petroleum gas agency has been allotted by the Indian Oil Corporation to Saurabh Kalia's parents.
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