Guarded by pine trees, Dr N.K. Kalia's house in Palampur is the cenotaph of Kargil's first martyr . This is where hundreds of armed forces aspirants come to seek the blessings of the late Captain Saurabh Kalia. In the decade after the Kargil war, at least 30 young men from Palampur have donned the olive green.

A room on the first floor of the house has been converted into Saurabh's memorial. The memorabilia is neatly displayed in glass cases against a royal blue backdrop. They include his uniform, his favourite HMT wristwatch, a transistor radio, shaving kit, wallets and a chessboard. Pictures from his school days to his last journey trace a hero's evolution.

The centerpiece is a picture of him with his mother—the last one in which they posed together. "I was packing his suitcase for the Academy when we had a tiff," said Saurabh's mother, Vijay Kalia. "I wanted to iron his clothes and he told me 'Mama, I'm an officer now. I will manage'. He did not want me to bother about him anymore and I did not like it. This picture was taken by my younger son while Saurabh was trying to cajole me."

The most touching is a cancelled State Bank of India cheque book for Saurabh's salary account. He had signed a few blank cheques for Vijay, but even before his first pay cheque was cashed, Saurabh was taken captive by the Pakistani army on May 15, 1999. On June 9, his mutilated body was returned to the Indian ?authorities.

"We must have done countless good deeds in our previous birth to have been blessed with a son like him," said Kalia. "His supreme sacrifice has made us proud but what has disappointed us is that the nation is least bothered to highlight the plight of war crimes at the international level." Kalia has been campaigning against atrocities meted out to Prisoners of War.

The family received Saurabh's post mortem report only two years ago, that, too, after repeated appeals. "The report confirms that injuries were inflicted before death. There were cigarette burns all over his body. His eyes and eardrums were pierced and there were multiple fractures," said Vaibhav, Saurabh's younger brother.

Saurabh's tortured death is mentioned in almost all books written on the war. One of them has the shocking confession of a fellow officer who said: "We picked up some interceptions that Saurabh was taken to Skadru… that Nawaz Sharif knew about the capture… that his nails were pulled out during interrogation. The Air Force is so much better. They kicked up such a fuss that Pakistanis were forced to send pilot K. Nachiketa back (see Air Marshal Patney's guest column). Why didn't we do that? Saurabh must have realised we betrayed him."

A retired senior scientist from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Kalia's only aim in life now is to seek justice for victims of war crimes. "The pain of losing a young son is hard to describe in words," he said. "But our suffering can never exceed the physical torture that he went through."


1. human right have been violated

2. he and his 5 comrades were so brave that they did not break while undergoing such brutality

3. but till now, no justice has been given to them,not even a small token of gallantry, not even a seva medal

4. his father is running from pillar to post for the past 10 years, to get justice for the unsung heroes

5. what if he was your son, your brother, your husband or your lover