Soldiers Die When We Forget Them

Its been more than three weeks since Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), Indian Army  addressed the press conference about surgical strikes of Indian Army in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) targeting terror launch pads. From civilians to political leaders, everyone stood by our fierce army supporting their act of valour. But like every issue being handled in this country politics again seeped in conjoined with noise and cacophony on news channels. Fight of Nation vs Terrorism took a turn in political lanes becoming Government vs Opposition, adding to the melee came in the artistic groups turning the ‘ugly’ scenario into so-called Peace vs Ultra-Patriotism questioning Prime Minister about his flight itineraries and tax money spent on it (well they have every right to do so). The live action of valour with bullets flying over our soldiers turned into virtual twitter fight with tweets volleying from several twitter handles. Some stood by defence forces and their decisions, few common (aam) leaders wanted proof, some took stand on cultural exchanges and a lot was scratched on the statement of a person who has been in and out of multiple legal troubles be it harassment or hit and run. 

Debates and discussions on several news channels ended up as brawls of some soap opera with panelists shouting at each other. On top of which it was saddening to see their lack of knowledge about our soldiers. In one of such debates, part of a panelist’s statement, “When Vikram Batra and all were mutilated…”, itself explains the very issue. It’s unfortunate that without any factual information people on nationally televised debates end up mocking the facts rather making a point . With all this eddying around our soldiers are fighting on borders against multiple terrorist infiltration but unfortunately nobody learns from them. As famously written by Rachna Bisht Rawat in her book THE BRAVE: Param Vir Chakra Stories, “Soldiers don’t die when bullets pierce their hearts and heads through their olive-green shirts and woolen balaclavas. They don’t die when they fall before an enemy onslaught, or even when they get buried in trenches, staining the earth with their warm crimson blood. It is only when we forget their acts of bravery that soldiers die.”

Correcting the facts of aforementioned statement; Captain Saurabh Kalia was one of the patrolling unit soldiers who were tortured, mutilated and then brutally killed by enemy forces in captivity during Kargil War whereas Captain Vikram Batra was the braveheart who captured Point 5140 and Point 4875 in Kargil War and was awarded with Param Vir Chakra, highest gallantry award of India posthumously.

Captain Saurabh Kalia



Born on 29 June 1976 at Amritsar, India to Mrs. Vijaya and Dr. N. K. Kalia, shy and thoughtful  with academic excellence Saurabh completed his schooling from  D.A.V Public School Palampur. He completed his graduation in (BSc Med.) from H. P. Agricultural University, Palampur, Himachal Pradesh in 1997 and was selected for Indian Military Academy in August  month of the same year. His first posting was 4 JAT Regiment (Infantry) in the Kargil Sector after being commissioned on 12 December 1998.


Bajrang Post (Point 5299)

In the past there was a practice of vacating some posts by the Indian Army along Line of Control (LOC) during winter due to blizzards and heavy snowing which made them inaccessible by foot. In summer these posts were then reoccupied. After Pakistan’s multiple attempts of occupying Siachen Glacier in 1997 and 1998 all defence formations along LOC were directed not to vacate any such posts.  During March 1999 when snow level rose high, defences on Bajrang Post were ordered to fall back which apparently got occupied by intruders between March and mid-May. Checking for infiltration in Kaksar sector Lt. Saurabh Kalia leading a surveillance patrol unit of five jawans- Sepoys Arjun Ram, Bhanwar Lal Bagaria, Bhika Ram, Moola Ram and Naresh Singh  was captured by Pakistani Troops on 14 May 1999 at this location. 

 Captivity, Death and Aftermath

After almost a month of captivity Pakistan Army returned the mutilated bodies of Indian soldiers, condition of the bodies and post-mortem examinations revealed before death inflicted injuries . Jaswant Singh, the then Minister of External Affairs briefed the media  personally condemning the heinous crime against humanity.

“Such Conduct is not simply a breach of established norms, or a violation of international agreements; it is a civilizational  crime against all humanity; it is a reversion to barbaric medievalism.”             

                                                                                  Jaswant Singh               

It’s been 17 years, yet the  families of our slain soldiers are waiting for the justice to be delivered. Dr. N. K. Kalia, father of Lt. Saurabh Kalia has been fighting for justice ever since, for punishing those responsible for this breach of Geneva Convention. In an interview  he talks about the time he had met the Indian Army Chief after the war, “After the war, the army chief visited us and he told us, Capt. Saurabh Kalia’s sacrifice had woken up a sleeping nation”.  


Captain Vikram Batra



Captain Vikram Batra  was born on 9th September, 1974 in Kangra valley in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh. He joined the Indian Military Academy  in 1996 and was commissioned in the Indian Army as a Lieutenant of the 13 Jammu & Kashmir(JAK) Rifles at Sopore, in Jammu and Kashmir. Well known for his fearlessness Captain Vikram Batra was nicknamed as Sher Shah.

 Capture of Point 5140, Dras Sector

During Operation Vijay Delta Company of 13 Jammu & Kashmir(JAK) Rifles under Lt. Vikram Batra surprised the enemy from southern slope of Point 5140 leading to a fierce assault in which Lt. Batra killed four Pakistani soldiers in hand-to-hand combat. With the capture of  Point 5140  Lt. Batra radioed the famous success signal  YEH DIL MANGE MORE! to his commanding officer Lt. Colonel Yogesh Joshi.


Capture of Point 4875

Promoted from Lieutenant to Captain from his first assault of Point 5140  Captain Vikram Batra volunteered to lead an attack to recapture north of Point 4875 from where enemy was hindering the operations of 13 JAK Rifles. Captain Batra and company came under open fire of enemy during the assault in which a young soldier was badly hit. Captain Batra along with a JCO decided to evacuate the bleeding soldier. Through the course Captain Batra switched his position with the officer saying, “Aapke biwi bache hai meri toh shaadi bhi nahi hui. Mai sir ki taraf rahunga aap paanv uthayenge” (you have a wife and children, I am not even married. I will be at the side of head you take the legs). Captain Batra without any regard for his personal safety came out from his cover to help the wounded soldier when he got hit by splinters of covering Artillery fire (Indian) . At this moment India lost a great soldier. Keeping Captain Batra’s fearlessness alive the assault culminated with the troops capturing the point thus defeating the enemy. 

Param Vir Chakra

“I’ll either come back after raising the Indian flag in victory or return wrapped in it,”Captain Batra told one of his friends before leaving for the war. Captain Vikram Batra was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest military honor for his conspicuous gallantry, exemplary leadership and selfless devotion to duty.

Our soldiers protect us day and night irrespective of who is holding the top government position or who is playing politics. Our tri forces have inherited the legacy of being apolitical which they continue to preserve with loyalty. Their oath is to Constitution of India. Our Army just follow the Chetwode Motto (Indian Military Academy)“ The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.” 

 A BIG SALUTE to our brave soldiers, their sheer grit and raw courage.

Book References

  • Kargil: From Surprise to Victory by General V.P. Malik
  • THE BRAVE: Param Vir Chakra Stories by Rachna Bisht Rawat

Author: Khushboo Pandey

Ph.D Student, Interdisciplinary Center for Energy Research (ICER), Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore

5 thoughts on “Soldiers Die When We Forget Them”

  1. It’s disappointing to know that the recent Surgical Strike by Indian Army has been made a mockery by Indian politics. People in the national news debate with “half-assed-ness” . They don’t do their research well before commenting in national television or newspapers. It’s high time for us to wake up and know our facts well. It’s high time to wake up and salute our Indian Army, Navi, and Airforce!
    Thanks Khusboo for letting us know our fact right.

    Liked by 1 person

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