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Kargil's first hero

Reportage: Archana Masih. Photograph: Kind courtesy the Kalia family. Design: Dominic Xavier

Lt Saurabh Kalia, who was later promoted to captain on the battlefield, was one of the first officers martyred by Pakistani intruders after Pakistan invaded the Kargil region of Jammu and Kashmir in May 1999.

By the time the war ended six weeks later, the Indian Army had evicted the invaders at the cost of 533 brave lives, and earned the maximum number of gallantry awards for battle.

A grateful nation honoured the Kargil warriors with four Param Vir Chakras -- India's highest award for gallantry in battle, nine Mahavir Chakras -- the second highest award for gallantry, 53 Vir Chakras -- the third highest award -- and 106 Sena Medals -- the fourth highest award.

On May 15, Lt Kalia along with five jawans -- Sepoys Arjun Ram, Bhanwar Lal Bagaria, Bhika Ram, Moola Ram and Naresh Singh -- had gone for a routine patrol of the Bajrang Post in the Kaksar sector when their patrol was captured by the enemy.

They were barbarically tortured for 22 days, after which their mutilated bodies were returned to the Indian Army.

Sepoy Arjun Ram was only 18. Lt Kalia, only 22.

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