Bravery Came Easy To Col Santosh Mahadik Who Was Killed In Kashmir Encounter

17 November 2015
Times of India
Rajat Pandit

New Delhi: Colonel Santosh Mahadik, as an officer from the elite 21 Para-Special Forces unit, had led several 'successful small team operations' against militants and their hideouts both in Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East for over a decade. Awarded a Sena Medal for gallantry during Operation Rhino in the North-East in 2003, he did not want to rest on his laurels even after becoming a Colonel. He specially volunteered to command a battalion of the Rashtriya Rifles (RR), the Army's specialized counter-insurgency force in J&K. On Tuesday, Col Mahadik (38) was once again leading his troops from 41 RR in a cat-and-mouse chase against heavily-armed militants, who had infiltrated across the Line of Control a few days ago, in the Manigah forests near Kupwara in North Kashmir. 'Over the last two days, three 'contacts' had been established with this group of terrorists in the inhospitable terrain...but they managed to evade the dragnet,' said a senior officer. At around 2 pm on Tuesday, Col Mahadik and his troops were once again combing the area when the terrorists opened heavy fire on them, and then fled deeper into the forest. 'Col Mahadik was hit on the head...he was evacuated to the Durgmulla military hospital but succumbed despite medical intervention. Two other security personnel were injured. The operation is still continuing, with more forces being rushed to the area,' said the officer. Col Mahadik, who studied in the Sainik School at his hometown at Satara in Maharashtra, leaves behind his wife Sashwati, an 11-year-old-daughter and a five-year-old son. 'We are proud of our young officers like him who lead from the front and do not hesitate to sacrifice their lives to protect the nation,' said defence minister Manohar Parrikar. The Army has always had the sterling tradition of its officers leading from the front, which is enshrined in the gallantry awards list year after year. But it's relatively rare for battalion commanding officers to die in counter-insurgency operations. Col Mahadik, who became an 'accomplished paratrooper and combat underwater diver' after being commissioned into the Army in December 1998, is the second CO to die in a terrorist encounter this year. Earlier, Col Munindra Nath Rai had laid down his life at the Handora village of Tral in south Kashmir on January 27, just a day after being decorated with the Yudh Seva Medal in the Republic Day gallantry awards list. A Gorkha Rifles officer, Col Rai was posthumously awarded the Shaurya Chakra on Independence Day. In 2007, Col Vasanth V of 9 Maratha Light Infantry was posthumously awarded the Ashoka Chakra, the nation's highest peacetime gallantry award, for laying down his life while personally leading an operation to flush out militants in Uri sector of J&K. The Rashtriya Rifles, which has grown to into a 80,000-strong force with 63 battalions after it was first raised in October 1990, has six Ashoka Chakras, 34 Kirti Chakras, 221 Shaurya Chakras and other medals to its credit. 'The RR has neutralised 16,400 terrorists over the last 25 years, killing 8,524 and apprehending the rest,' said another officer.