By Vishal Gulati
Feeling let down by the successive Indian governments, the father of Captain Saurabh Kalia is now pinning hopes on the Supreme Court. Saurabh was the first to report Pakistani incursion in Kargil in 1999. He was taken captive with five other troops by Pakistani troops and his mutilated body was handed over to his family a few weeks later.
“Whether it’s the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) or the UPA (United Progressive Alliance), both are two sides of the same coin,” the late young army man’s father N.K. Kalia told IANS on Monday.
Aghast at the stand of the Narendra Modi government on dealing with Mumbai terror attackers and the Pakistan army, the senior Kalia said India was apparently confused in its policy on Pakistan.
His outburst came a day after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj denied any “flip-flop” in India’s policy towards Pakistan and said no talks can be held with it as long as Mumbai attack mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi was walking free.
“It’s something astonishing that India is projecting a tough stand against the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack but somehow soft towards its national heroes. Why?” asked 64-year-old Kalia, who retired as a senior scientist from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
“Is Pakistan a friend or an enemy? India is totally confused. This is my personal experience for the past 16 years when I lost my son for the country’s sake.”
The previous Manmohan Singh government had clarified its stand in the Supreme Court in November 2013 that it will not treat Kalia’s torture by Pakistani troops as a war crime.
The central government had filed its response in the case in the apex court, saying it had no intention of taking up the issue under the Geneva Convention.
Kalia said the same stand was being pursued by the present BJP government, which before coming to power had projected itself to be tough against Pakistan.
“Like its predecessor, the BJP government at the Centre is soft. This is amply reflected from Minister of State for Foreign Affairs V.K. Singh’s reply to MP Rajeev Chandrashekhar’s question in parliament,” he said.
To Chandrashekhar’s query on whether the government proposed to take up Kalia’s torture with the International Court of Justice (ICJ), V.K. Singh, himself a retired General and army chief, had recently replied: “The attention of the international community has already been drawn to these heinous and barbaric acts of Pakistan army, including through a statement to the UN General Assembly on September 22, 1999, and to the Commission of Human Rights in April 2000.”
“The possibility of seeking legal remedies through the international courts was also thoroughly examined, but not found feasible,” said V.K. Singh in his reply, forwarded by Chandrasekhar to Kalia.
Chandrasekhar also sought to plead the case with the UN Human Rights Council to declare the torture of Captain Saurabh Kalia and five other soldiers, whom Pakistani army captured with him, as a war crime.
The elderly Kalia, settled in the tea garden town of Palampur, about 220 km from state capital Shimla, is pinning hopes on the Supreme Court where his petition has been listed for next hearing on August 25.
The apex court has asked the government to make its stand clear through an affidavit by the next date of hearing.
His plea is for issuing directions to the government that his son’s torture by the Pakistan Army be referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Captain Saurabh Kalia, of the 4 Jat Regiment, was the first Indian Army officer to report the incursion by the Pakistan army on Indian soil in Kargil region.
He and five soldiers – Arjun Ram, Bhanwar Lal Bagaria, Bhika Ram, Moola Ram and Naresh Singh – were on patrol at the Bajrang Post in Kaksar sector of Jammu and Kashmir when they were taken captive by the Pakistani army on May 15, 1999.
They were tortured for weeks before being killed. Their mutilated bodies were handed over to the Indian authorities on June 9.