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25 Years Later, Family Still Seeks Justice For Kargil War Hero's Torture

Captain Saurabh Kalia was born on January 29, 1976, in Amritsar,

New Delhi:

Twenty-five years ago, Captain Saurabh Kalia became the first Indian army officer to be killed in the Kargil War. He was captured by Pakistani forces along with five other soldiers and subjected to brutal torture for 22 days before being killed.

In an interview, Captain Kalia’s parents, Dr Narendra Kalia and Mrs Vijaya Kalia, recalled the pain and devastation they felt upon learning of their son’s death. However, the outpouring of love and respect from people across the country has given them some comfort, they say.

Who was Captain Saurabh Kalia?

Captain Saurabh Kalia was born on January 29, 1976, in Amritsar, and grew up in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh. He completed his schooling at DAV Public School and higher secondary education at Kendriya Vidyalaya in Palampur.

Driven by a desire to serve the country, Saurabh Kalia joined the army through the CDSR and was commissioned as an officer in 4 Jat on December 12, 1998. He was deployed to Kargil, where he managed general duties at the Baharng Complex at an altitude of over 17,000 feet and monitored infiltrations in the Kaksar sub-sector. 

What happened to Captain Saurabh Kalia?

On May 15, 1999, Captain Kalia and five soldiers were on a routine patrol when they were ambushed and captured alive by Pakistani forces. They were held captive for 22 days and tortured to death. Their bodies were returned by the Pakistani army on June 9, 1999.

Captain Saurabh Kalia’s mother recalls learning of her son’s death through a newspaper article, a pain that lingers 25 years later. They went to confirm the news at the Palampur army office and were met with the stark reality that “no news is good news” in the military. 

Though time has somewhat eased her grief, the torture inflicted on Saurabh and his comrades continues to haunt her. Captain Saurabh Kalia and the five others were subjected to cigarette burns, removed eyes and broken teeth and bones. 

Captain Saurabh Kalia’s father remembers his son as a calm and thoughtful person. He has been fighting for justice for his son’s mistreatment, but the government has not taken any action so far. He even filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking the government to take up the matter with the International Court of Justice (ICJ). 

He believes that Pakistan’s actions violated the Geneva Convention and international laws and that India should take up the matter at the international level. Despite numerous hearings, the case remains inconclusive. However, Mr Kalia remains determined to fight for justice not only for his son but also for five other soldiers who were similarly tortured and killed.

On the 25th anniversary of the Kargil War, Captain Kargil’s father appealed to all citizens to show respect and gratitude to soldiers who served the nation in extreme conditions, from -50 to +50 degrees Celsius. He also said that Pakistan can’t be trusted, like a dog’s tail that will never straighten.”

Kargil War (1999)

India and Pakistan were involved in a war from May to July 1999 in the Kargil district of Jammu and Kashmir. The conflict began when Pakistani troops infiltrated Indian positions across the Line of Control (LoC). In response, India launched Operations Vijay and Safed Sagar to reclaim the occupied territories. The war included significant battles, such as the recapture of Tiger Hill and Tololing. Ultimately, India won, forcing Pakistan to withdraw its troops. The conflict ended with a return to the pre-conflict status quo. India suffered 527 casualties during the war.