New Delhi: Seventy-year-old Dr N.K. Kalia has spent the last 20 years of his life fighting to get justice for the death of his 23-year-old son, Captain Saurabh Kalia, who in May 1999 was abducted, with five other soldiers, by the Pakistan army and tortured to death.
Their bodies were returned to India after 22 days and had signs of extreme torture, including but not limited to, burning of body parts with cigarettes, piercing of ear-drums with hot rods, puncturing of eyes before they were removed, breaking most of their teeth, cutting off of lips, chipping of nose, chopping off of limbs and private organs, fracturing their skulls and finally shooting the soldiers dead. Post-mortem reports had confirmed that all these injuries were inflicted on them when they were still alive.
Broken but determined to get justice to his son and his colleagues, N.K. Kalia approached the Indian government to declare their deaths as war crimes so that the perpetrators in the Pakistan army who carried out these heinous acts could be identified and punished. However, despite approaching three Presidents and writing to various Union Ministers over a period of time, the only reply he got was the acknowledgment that his letters had been received.
A dejected Kalia, in 2012, was forced to move the Supreme Court seeking directions from the court to order the Central government to move the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the case.
However, he has so far failed to get any results as at first the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and now the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government have refused to take the matter to the ICJ.
In 2013, the UPA government of the time told the Supreme Court that it did not have any intention to take the matter to the ICJ, a line which was subsequently repeated by the NDA government in 2015 in front of the Supreme Court. The government said that it was an issue involving the two countries and hence it could not approach the ICJ. The only action that was taken by the Indian government in this matter was in 1999 itself: Kalia found out through RTI queries that the government conveyed “anguish and anger” of the nation to the then Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Sartaj Aziz when he visited India on 12 June 1999.
“They can take the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav to the ICJ, but for 20 years now, they have shown no interest in taking the case of Saurabh and five other soldiers to the ICJ. What was inflicted on these six people was barbaric and a gross violation of the Geneva Convention. All of them were prisoners of war (PoWs) and yet they were tortured to death, an exercise which went on for 22 days. I had very high hopes from the present government, but rather than accepting my genuine request to move the ICJ, something which it should have done suo-moto, the government is sending lawyers to fight me in the Supreme Court,” N.K. Kalia told The Sunday Guardian.
Saurabh had joined the force on 12 December 1998 and was captured by the Pakistan army on 15 May 1999 after he and his men had gone out for a fourth patrol duty in Kargil. He was the first officer who gave elaborate information on the large-scale intrusion of the Pakistan army in the Kargil sector on the basis of intelligence that he had gathered during his previous three patrols. Later he himself volunteered for the fourth time to go to “Bajrang post” at the height 13,000-14,000 feet to check the nature of the infiltration along with five soldiers in the Kaksar area where they were caught in an ambush.
The six men kept fighting until their ammunition ran out, after which they were caught alive, before reinforcements could reach that height.
Supreme Court lawyer Arvind Sharma, who is fighting the case for N.K. Kalia, said that he had no answers as to why the government was resisting their demand to move the ICJ. “The government says that it is bound by conventions and treaties and hence cannot move the ICJ. I cannot say why the government is not moving the ICJ. Both the Kulbhushan case and Saurabh’s case are the same,” he said.