A father’s battle for justice

Print edition : January 25, 2013

Captain Saurabh Kalia at his pinning ceremony at the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun in 1998. Photo: PTI

DR N.K. KALIA, the father of Kargil martyr Captain Saurabh Kalia, has been waging a lone battle seeking justice since 1999. Captain Kalia, along with five others—sepoys Arjun Ram, Bhanwar Lal Bagaria, Bhikaram, Moola Ram and Naresh Singh—was on patrol duty at the Bajrang post in the Kargil area on May 15, 1999. He was the first to notice and report infiltration by Pakistani troops. He was captured the same day, though the Pakistani authorities never confirmed his capture. On June 9, 1999, the Pakistan Army handed over the bodies of all the six men to the Indian Army. The post-mortem confirmed that all the six had been tortured and brutally killed. But even after all these years it has not been found out who captured them, where they were kept and who tortured and killed them, despite N.K. Kalia petitioning every possible authority in India and Pakistan.

The case is once again in the limelight as Dr Kalia, with the help of independent Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament Rajeev Chandrashekhar, has petitioned the Supreme Court to give directions to the Government of India to approach the International Court of Justice to treat this as a war crime and punish the guilty. He has also filed a petition with the Special Rapporteur on Torture, in the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, pleading for justice.

Dr Kalia told Frontline: “This is not merely a matter of my son and his five men, it is the matter of the honour and dignity of all men in uniform. It is a national issue and I will pursue it as long as I am alive.” On being asked whether he would advise young men against opting for a career in the Indian Army, he said: “Not in the least. Sacrificing for the country should be an honour for every individual. But as a father I will not allow this outrageous act to go unpunished and will make every possible effort to bring the guilty to book.”

Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who runs Flags of Honour, an organisation for the welfare of ex-servicemen, said he decided to take up the case to the highest level because “as an Indian I want to tell our soldiers that no matter what the government does, we love you and care for you and will always support you”. According to him, the government has been indifferent about pursuing the case. “A section of the political class and the bureaucracy have a very non-serious, dispassionate attitude towards the men in uniform, which pains me. Most ex-servicemen are from very modest backgrounds and when I see them or their dependants run around for even their basic dues, it hurts.” He said he was pursuing the case for two reasons: to find out why the government had not pursued this case vigorously despite both the countries involved being signatories to the Geneva Conventions, and to bring to book and punish whoever was responsible for the death of the six men.

Purnima S. Tripathi