There are times when words simply flow.. Writing in such moments of extreme lucidity is sheer pleasure..This happened to me last evening. The news that triggered this was one of joy but tinged with a great deal of sadness – and lots of anger too.
This is the forgotten story of Kargil’s first hero and a tireless fight for justice. This is the sad tale of Captain Saurabh Kalia. Some of you may be too young to remember the name and it may fail to ring any bells at all. But the story of Capt. Kalia is a tragic story of a spineless government and an indifferent administration that has managed to keep a wound alive for more than 13 years.
That wound is of Dr Kalia and his family.
My first interaction with Dr Kalia was a truly moving and humbling experience, more than a year back. It was the consequence of a chain email that had found its way in my Inbox. That email left a deep impression on me. I tracked down Dr Kalia’s number and called him. What I heard that day angered me and made me ashamed in equal measure.
It angered me to see and realise the behaviour of a callous administration. It made me ashamed that most of us are silent spectators to the heartless indifference with which we treat most of our brave soldiers who die defending our borders..
The story of Capt Saurabh Kalia is brief but truly horrifying..
“On May 15, Lt Kalia along with five jawans – Sepoys Arjun Ram, Bhanwar Lal Bagaria, Bhika Ram, Moola Ram and Naresh Singh – had gone for a routine patrol of the Bajrang Post in the Kaksar sector when their patrol was captured by the enemy.
They were in their captivity for over twenty-two days and subjected to unprecedented brutal torture..
…The postmortem revealed that the Pakistan army had indulged in the most heinous acts; of burning their bodies with cigarettes, piercing ear-drums with hot rods, puncturing eyes before removing them, breaking most of the teeth and bones, chopping off various limbs and private organs of these soldiers besides inflicting all sorts of physical and mental tortures before shooting them dead, as evidenced by the bullet wound to the temple” [link]
Numerous letters by Capt Kalia’s father and others failed to move the government to pursue the matter in international fora and declare this horrific and brutal treatment of these men as a war crime. In disgust, Dr N K Kalia was forced to say: “I am ashamed of being an Indian. The country has spineless leaders”
Subsequent to my brief call with Dr Kalia, I received a deeply moving reply from him.
His truly heroic and lonely battle inspired me to seek ways in which I could help. That is how I came in touch with another remarkable soul – the indefatigable Jas Uppal. Jas is better known as the tireless spirit behind the campaign to free Sarabjit Singh and numerous other Indians illegally detained in Pakistan. She has been single-handedly fighting for the cause of Dr Kalia – and numerous others without any assistance from anyone (nor funding). Hers and Dr Kalia’s has been a long and almost thankless fight.
Until yesterday – when the Supreme Court finally admitted a plea by Dr Kalia seeking the Court’s intervention in the matter so that the Union Government takes up his son’s case at the International Court of Justice.
This man who served the country so honourably as a scientist – and whose pain only a parent who has lost a child in the prime of youth can begin to understand – has been reduced to making applications and requesting “help” from the government for his rights and justice. Hopefully this is a turning point in Dr Kalia’s fight for justice.
I would like to end this piece with excerpts from Dr Kalia’s email, which is deeply touching & truly inspiring. I wish it is read and shared by a large number of people, especially youngsters – who may not be aware of the sad history of this case (I have his permission to share this publicly).
“Dear Shantanu Ji, Heartiest aashirvaad. Many grateful thanks for your phone-call & mail.
I often state that losing one Saurabh, though physically only, we got thousands Saurabhs all over the globe. They never let us feel alone even for a moment. The love, respect, honour showered on us by in-numerable persons in last over twelve years is overwhelming. You too are our Saurabh. Over 1.55 lac emails and more than 42,000 hand written letters apart from countless persons visiting or calling from India or abroad vouch for that. Certainly, we would have to take more births to repay all that.
Our sufferings and pains can never exceed to what brutal torture those six valiant sons of Mother India faced for over 3 weeks with Pak army. We get infinite inspiration and strength when we think so. In fact, Saurabh & his men made every Indian proud.
Sacrificing for the Nation is not a new phenomenon. Over thousands of years, to safeguard our motherland & culture, honour of our mothers, sisters & daughters, sacrifices have been made. If we all hesitate to send our sons in army, who would defend theirs honour.
But what happened to these valiant soldiers is totally unacceptable. Personally, I feel it is not the question of Saurabh or his men but the dignity of our all men in armed forces, rather a National issue and this mine crusade would continue till I am alive. It is more shameful and frustrating when men in power promising me to take up this issue with Pak and also at international forums. Unfortunately, these were tall promises. Regretfully, I am fighting the callousness of our own system.
…I am afraid I would achieve anything but this humble endeavour would at least stir the conscience of common Indian and sensitize them. Sadly our Netas are more Internationalists than Nationalists. We have lost the very sense of National Pride, so common in several other Nations.
You please do read the article http://specials.rediff.com/news/2004/jun/07kalia.htm
Kindly visit us whenever convenient to you. Yours affectionately, N K Kalia”