Nation fails its soldiers – Ravi Shanker Kapoor

The Saurabh Kalia case has, for the nth time, underlined the ineptitude and callousness of the political class in matters related to defence, national pride, and soldiers’ sentiments. Once again, a disturbing thought comes to the mind: ours is a country which aspires to become a global power—and is unable to get justice for the men who lay down their lives for it.

Lt Kalia, along with his five comrades—Arjun Ram, Bhanwar Lal Bagaria, Bhika Ram, Moola Ram, and Naresh Singh—from the Jat Regiment, was captured before the Kargil War in June 1999. All of them were inhumanly tortured for 22 days. Kalia’s parents told Hill Post that the “Pak Army indulged in the most dastardly acts of burning bodies with cigarettes, piercing ears with hot iron rods, removing eyes before puncturing them, breaking most of the bones and teeth, chopping off various limbs and private organs of these soldiers, besides inflicting unimaginable physical and mental tortures.” After the torture, the six soldiers were shot dead.

Then they handed over the mutilated bodies of the fallen men to the Indian Army. The action of Pakistan Army was a clear violation of the Geneva Convention and all norms of modern warfare. But what did our great leaders do? Well, apart from making sanctimonious statements, nothing. The then foreign minister, Jaswant Singh, though himself an ex-soldier, just made a few bombastic remarks, but did not pursue the case of tortured Indian soldiers. This was despite the fact that he was a powerful minister in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government. Nor did anybody else in the supposedly nationalist party do anything for the cause of the murdered soldiers.

On its part, Pakistan flatly denied any wrongdoing by its army at that time, and has steadfastly maintained that line since then. This, when the proof of torture is undeniable. Consider what Sourabh Kalia’s brother, Vaibhav told a reporter. Vaibha “identified his body when it arrived in a coffin wrapped in the national flag in Palampur. Saurabh’s face, he recalls, ‘was the size of my fingers, his eyebrows were the only visible feature, no eyes, no jaw, there were cigarette burns… it was very bad. My parents couldn’t have seen him’.”

But the Pakistanis say that there was no case of torture. And our governments have failed to prove that.

While the BJP blundered, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government proved to no better. Anyway, it is so busy redeeming the aam aadmi that it has forgotten the soldier. For the UPA regime, the Left-inspired food security—that recipe for fiscal disaster and economic ruin—is more important than national security.

Perhaps the only honorable exception among politicians was Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar who sent a letter on the issue to former external affairs minister S.M. Krishna. The response that it elicited from the minister was quintessentially banal.

So, it was left to Dr. N.K. Kalia, father of Saurabh Kalia, to fight for justice almost alone. Dr. Kalia (63) who retired as a senior scientist from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, lives in Palampur in Himachal Pradesh with his wife Vijaya.

Having failed to wake up the Union government, Dr. Kalia has moved the Supreme Court, seeking direction to the government to take up his son’s case at the international judicial forum. According to him, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) should ask International Court of Justice (ICJ) to inquire into the matter and get justice for his son.

“I have approached three presidents. From all of them, I have just received one standard reply: ‘Your letter has been received and would be forwarded for necessary action’,” Dr. Kalia told the media.

Even the resurfacing of the issue and media outcry has not failed to galvanize the government into action. This is how External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid reacted to Dr. Kalia’s petition in the apex court: “Whatever is possible will be done but I do not want to give you a commitment now of any nature of what is possible or what is being done. This is a matter we have taken up at the highest level over the years and we have not yet been able to get adequate stands of the matter being addressed, that is absolutely true.”

In plain English, it means: ‘Nothing has been done and nothing will be done.’ When our politicians’ rarely keep their commitments, nothing can be expected from their non-commitments.

An excuse offered by the government for the failure to get justice for the murdered soldiers is that India cannot drag Pakistan to the ICJ. This is a questionable assertion, but even if it is accepted as correct, what stops us from taking up the matter with Islamabad in a no-nonsense manner? The Kalia case—along with other outrages like 26/11, the attack on Parliament, the airplane hijack, etc.—is reason enough to stop all interaction with Pakistan. But what actually are we doing?

We are improving our ties with our western neighbor. We want to upgrade economic relations, Track II, III, IV… diplomacies, cricket matches, and long is the list of abominations. Prisoners of sentimentalist claptrap and tolerant to politicians’ treacheries, we as a nation lack moral courage, rational faculties, and requisite resolve to survive, let alone thrive, as a vibrant democracy.

While politicians are the chief culprits, the intellectual class is no less guilty. Academic grandees, media Brahmins, and other opinion makers continue to bombard us with lessons in talks-at-any-cost with Pakistan; a less placatory approach, in their scheme of things, will make us jingoistic. Let Islamabad sponsor and arm the jihadis, let them send the Kasabs to our cities to massacre our citizens, let them refuse to take action against the 26/11 masterminds, let them refuse to even acknowledge that the six soldiers were tortured in 1999, but we shall continue to appease them. As a campaign carried out by The Times Of India says, there should always be aman ki asha. Because we believe in Panchsheel, peaceful coexistence, blah, blah, blah.

Dr. Kalia is says that he is ashamed to be an Indian. The shame involves us all.

One comment

  1. Adfar Shah /

    Shame on Pak for such an inhuman act,killing a captive soldier by inhuman torture reflects their discipline and respect for international laws.Kudos to Lt Kalia’s parents who brought it to limelight and shame on all those who shy away from their responsibilities of vesting the Indian soldier with ample dignity and honour. The system is failing the soldier,which gets revealed from the delay in Lt Kalia’s and his colleagues case.How can a human being be so cruel to tear a captive into pieces and take his life so mercilessly with inhuman torture.Lt Kalia and his friends need justice and state especially defense helmsmen should proceed with Kalia’s case to bring the culprits to justice.
    I salute your spirit Lt Kalia for you died so painfully and faced much for this nation-the nation which is lost in religion,sects,bias,corruption,individualism,material comforts,ignorance and what not……
    i salute you soldiers,even knowing all this you laid your life so willingly for our safety…..
    Rest in peace….
    Adfar Shah

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