Remembering Captain Saurabh Kalia On Kargil Vijay Divas

Captain Kalia and five other soldiers were captured after a fierce encounter and were brutally tortured while in captivity. His 76-year-old father remembers him on this day and says he will continue to fight for justice


Jawans of Indian Army performing during Kargil Vijay Diwas

Captain Saurabh Kalia was kept hostage for 20 days, subjected to extreme torture and brutalities, yet, the Pakistani Army could not break him and he did not give up till his last breath. Unfortunately, his mutilated body was handed over to the Indian Army a few days after his capture on May 15, 1999, during the Kargil War.  

As India celebrates “Kargil Vijay Divas” on July 26 in honour of those who made the supreme sacrifice for the nation, Captain Kalia will be remembered for alerting the Indian Army about Pakistan’s massive intrusion in Kargil. 

On May 15, 1999, Kalia and five other soldiers of the 4th Jat Regiment—Sepoys Arjun Ram, Bhanwar Lal Bagaria, Bhika Ram, Moola Ram and Naresh Singh—were on a routine patrol in the mountains of Ladakh when they engaged in a firefight with Pakistani forces across the Line of Control (LOC). The patrol ran out of ammunition and was captured before Indian reinforcements could reach them. They were held captive from May 15 to June 7 and were subjected to torture.


For Captain Kalia’s father Dr NK Kalia, a senior retired scientist from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) at Palampur in Himachal Pradesh, Kargil Vijay Divas is a proud moment for him to revisit the fond memories of his son’s gallant act of saving the nation from Pakistan’s misadventure in Kashmir. 

“The way he was taken hostage, along with five other soldiers, and subjected to horrifying physical torture was a highly provocative act of the Pakistanis but today we must celebrate his valour, bravery and supreme sacrifice,” he says in an interview from his home town Palampur. 

Fighting for justice for his martyred son for over the past two decades, Dr Kalia awaits the day when India will take Pakistan to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for inhumanely torturing his son, who was just 22 then. 


Dr Kalia, 76, moved the Supreme Court in 2012 and sought directions for the Union government to take “immediate and necessary steps” to bring up the issue before the ICJ at The Hague for appropriate remedy and action against Pakistan. The barbaric act of torture was in violation of the Geneva Convention of Treatment for Prisoners of War to which both India and Pakistan are signatories.

Asked if he feels sad that nothing came out of his fight for justice, Dr Kalia says: “I have not given up. The fight will go on till I am alive. This is not just about my son and the five jawans, it’s for the dignity and honour of the Indian forces. My son has become a part of the history of this great nation. He is immortal. My struggle for justice for him is a matter between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Indian Army and Pakistan. One can take the horse to the water but can’t make him drink.” 
Dr Kalia says he is touched by the love, affection and respect that millions of Indians, NRIs, NGOs, the Indian Army and the government have showered on his son in all these years. 

“I will not be able to repay this debt. I get letters, e-mails and WhatsApp messages from all over the country and abroad. I can’t tell you exactly how many such letters have reached me until now. They are in lakhs. It is how our nation respects a soldier,” he says.

The Pakistani Army had captured Captain Kalia and five others while they were on a routine patrol at Bajrang Post at a height of 14,000 feet to check infiltration in the Kaksar area. After 20 days of extreme torture, his highly mutilated body was handed over to the Indian side. Post-mortem examinations conducted by India reported that prisoners had cigarette burns, ear drums pierced with hot rods, many broken teeth and bones, fractured skulls, eyes that had been punctured before being removed, cut lips, chipped noses, and amputated limbs, and genitalia. The report said these injuries preceded the captives being shot dead in the head.


Sharing some of the memories, Dr Kalia said Captain Kalia was on his very first posting. He was happy to be in Kargil and that he was given an opportunity to serve the nation in tough, high-altitude borders. It was a strange coincidence that his first salary and the news about his martyrdom reached home the same day. 

“When a soldier goes to the border, it’s taken for granted that he will return as a martyr or kill the enemies. Soldiers have been sacrificing their lives for the country. We must celebrate their valour on this day. It’s a heart-warming moment,” says Dr Kalia. 


He takes pride in the fact that the Saurab Kalia Memorial Women's Cricket Tournament was held at Kargil in memory of his son recently. Until now, only men’s tournaments have been organised at the stadium named after him. “People who organise these tournaments say had Captain Kalia not alerted the Indian army about the intrusion, we could have been in Pakistan today,” says Dr Kalia.

Dr Kalia has donated all the monetary benefits and honours received from the government to social causes. He has set up a charity hospital and a nursing college, which will soon be functional. He has not taken a penny for himself to date. Saurabh Vihar, a memorial park at Palampur, stands as a witness to his supreme sacrifice for the nation.