For Locals, Brave 'Colonel Santo' Was More Of A Helpful Teacher

18 November 2015
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Majid Jahangir

Srinagar: His colleagues describe the 38-year-old Colonel Santosh Mahadik as a tough soldier always leading from the front while Kupwara residents who knew him remember him as a humane officer. Locals in frontier Kupwara, where the officer was posted for nearly two years before being killed in the same district during an encounter with militants, say Colonel Mahadik frequently interacted with teachers, youngsters and students, exhorting them to 'always be positive in life'. Colonel Mahadik of the elite Para Commando unit and commanding the counter-insurgency unit of 41 Rashtriya Rifles was killed in a gunfight with militants in north Kashmir's Kupwara district on Tuesday. 'In the past two years, Colonel Mahadik had started a programme in collaboration with a Pune-based non-governmental organisation to counsel parents and laid stress on having a positive approach in life. He would also interact with teachers from the area and give them suggestions on keeping children happy and helping them develop a positive attitude,' said a lawyer from Kupwara who knew the officer. Another local resident said the officer was known in the area as Colonel Santo as he had good relations with locals. 'For us Colonel Santo was more of an academician than a soldier. He would proudly tell people about his life story on how he was raised by his milkman father, who still supplied milk back home in Maharashtra,' he said. A senior police officer in Kupwara said Colonel Mahadik was grounded to reality and passionate about social development in backward areas. 'He wanted to do something about changing the mindset of public towards the Army. He would often talk of bringing scenic spots of the Kupwara on the tourism map. He saw a great potential in tourism and believed the Army could take a lead in promoting tourism in border areas, particularly those near the Line of Control,' Senior Superintendent of Police, Kupwara, Aijaz Bhat said, adding that the Colonel had also made a documentary on the scenic Lolab valley. 'The Colonel had great stamina and could effortlessly walk uphill. In the operation which consumed his life, he pursued and pushed the militants. He wished to bring laurels to the Army and did so with his supreme sacrifice,' Bhat said. A senior Army officer said Colonel Mahadik was a brilliant and extraordinary human being. 'He was great guy who was always willing to fight terrorists. The Colonel led from the front against Pakistani terrorists and fell fighting,' he added. The Colonel was supposed to complete his tenure in March. 'Colonel Mahadik was awarded Sena Medal (Gallantry) for his exceptional gallantry and leadership as a young officer while fighting militants in the Lolab valley in 2003,' a Srinagar-based defence spokesman said. Governor condoles death of Col Santosh Mahadik Jammu: Governor NN Vohra has spoken to Northern Command chief Lt Gen DS Hooda and General Officer Commanding of the 15 Corps Lt Gen SK Dua to convey his condolences over the death of Colonel Santosh Mahadik, Commaning Officer, 41 Rashtriya Rifles. Colonel Mahadik, a decorated Special Forces' officer, was killed in an encounter with militants in Kupwara district on Tuesday. The Governor has conveyed his heartfelt sympathy to the gallant officer's wife and family.