Capt Saurabh Kalia was selected for the Indian Military Academy through the Combined Defense Services in August 1997 and was commissioned on December 12, 1998. He was commissioned into the 4 Jat of the Jat Regiment, an infantry regiment with a reputation for bravery and numerous battle honors. Capt Saurabh’s first assignment was in Jammu and Kashmir, where his unit was deployed in the Kargil sector. He arrived in January 1999 after reporting at the Jat Regimental Centre in Bareilly on December 31, 1998. He joined the unit as a Lieutenant and was promoted to the rank of Captain on the battlefield at the age of 22.
Unfortunate Events of Kargil War
Capt Saurabh Kalia and five soldiers were deployed in Kaksar area in 1999. In May 1999, the Indian Army started patrolling the Batalik-Yaldor sector and Kaksar Langpa area for the presence of intruders. On 15th May, Capt Saurabh was tasked to lead a patrol to the Bajrang post. He and five soldiers set off for the post.
Capt Saurabh Kalia and his troops were surrounded by Pakistani rangers after a crossfire with Pakistan armed forces. They ran out of ammunition and called for reinforcements, but before help arrived, they were captured alive. The Indian troops launched a search operation to find them. The capture of Capt Saurabh was announced by Radio Skardu of Pakistan, leading to the discovery of hundreds of guerrillas who had established fortified positions on the Indian side of the Line of Control, equipped with sophisticated equipment and supply lines back to Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.
Capt Saurabh Kalia and his troops were in captivity for 22 days, from May 15th, 1999 to June 7th, 1999, and were subjected to torture as evidenced by the injuries on their bodies when they were handed over by the Pakistani Army on June 9th, 1999. The post-mortem examination revealed that the Pakistani forces violated the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war by torturing the captives.
On June 9th, 1999, Capt Saurabh Kalia’s body was handed over to the Indian army by the Pakistani army and was received by Dr. N K Kalia. The evidence of torture on Capt Saurabh’s body showed that he was subjected to inhumane treatment during his 22 days in captivity. Capt Saurabh was a brave and dedicated soldier who died serving his country.
Violation of Geneva Conventions
The treatment that Captain Saurabh Kalia and his soldiers received at the hands of the Pakistani Army was a gross violation of the Geneva Convention. They were subjected to horrific torture, including piercing of ear drums with hot iron rods, puncturing of eyes, cutting off of genitals, burning with cigarette butts, chopping off of limbs, breaking of teeth, skull fractures, and cutting off of nose and lips. The autopsy of the soldiers’ bodies revealed the extent of the inhumane treatment they endured.
The body of Capt. kalia was sent to his family on June 9, 1999. Saurabh Kalia’s brother, Vaibhav, identified his body when it arrived in a coffin wrapped in the national flag.
His family seeks justice for the gruesome torture that Capt. Kalia had to undergo.
Justice Denied to Captain Kalia till Today
On June 15th, 1999, the Indian government summoned the Deputy High Commissioner of the Pakistani Embassy in New Delhi and submitted a notice of breach of the Geneva Convention in relation to the torture and killing of the Indian prisoners of war during the Kargil War. Despite the efforts of the Indian government, including raising the issue with the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, the charges of torture were denied by Pakistan. In December 2012, Pakistan’s Interior Minister even suggested that Captain Saurabh Kalia may have died due to weather conditions.
Captain Saurabh Kalia’s family continues to seek justice for their son and other Indian soldiers who were subjected to war crimes. Dr. N K Kalia, Captain Kalia’s father, has been pursuing his son’s case and has called for the act to be declared a war crime by the United Nations and for the people responsible to be punished under the Geneva Convention. He has also started an online signature campaign to raise awareness of the plight of war victims.
In an effort to bring justice for his son, Dr. N.K. Kalia has approached various national and international organizations to put pressure on Pakistan to identify and prosecute those responsible for the crime. Mr. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, a former Member of Parliament, has taken up the cause and has written to the External Affairs Minister as well as raised questions in Parliament regarding the government’s inaction in this matter. In October 2013, the then Defense Minister, A.K. Antony, responded to a question raised by Mr. Chandrasekhar by stating that India was bound by the Simla Agreement and any differences with Pakistan would be resolved through bilateral negotiations.
Captain Saurabh Kalia’s parents still fighting to seek justice for his son
The former Indian Army Chief, General Bikram Singh, supported the efforts of Capt Saurabh Kalia’s father and the Flags of Honour Foundation in filing a petition with the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on December 7, 2012. The petition was filed with Juan E. Méndez, the Special Rapporteur on Torture of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights in Geneva. However, the UNHRC is an inter-state body and typically acts only on initiatives taken by its member states.
In September 2014, the Supreme Court took up a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Dr N. K. Kalia and Sarwa Mitter and asked the central government to file an affidavit within 6 weeks. The government responded by challenging the petition, stating that a PIL could not seek action against a foreign country and that foreign policy was a government function. Despite this, the current government does not believe that taking the matter to the International Court of Justice against Pakistan is practical. However, the Kalia family is still seeking justice and has resolved to continue their fight.
Tribute to Captain Kalia
- The family received their son’s mortal remains at the military helipad, above a verdant green tea estate in Palampur. It arrived at noon, with about 6,000 people gathered at the airbase. Senior army officers, state leaders among others paid homage and thousands of people later walked in the funeral procession.
- 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 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.
- Capt Kalia’s statue has been erected in a memorial in Amritsar.
Captain Saurabh Kalia’s parents with a photo of their son. N.K. Kalia, the solider’s father, expressed his disappointment at the Centre’s stance