Satara: The country on Thursday bids a teary goodbye to the 38-year-old Colonel Santosh Mahadik, who laid his life battling terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday.
Mahadik was cremated with full military honours including a 21-gun salute in his home town in Satara, Maharashtra. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, many politicians and retired armymen attended the last rites of the martyred officer who is survived by his wife and two children, aged 11 and seven.
Chants of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ rented the air as hundreds, gathered in Pogarwadi village, paid their last respects to the officer. As a mark of respect, many women in the village did not wear bindis on their forehead today; several others did not eat in mourning.
Colonel Mahadik died leading from the front and the proud Indian Army paid glowing tribute.
Colonel SS Shekhawat, an officer of the Army’s elite 21 Special Forces who once commanded Colonel Mahadik, told NDTV, “It is a great loss. But he has gone in style. With a bullet in the chest and we draw inspiration from him. This is the way to go for a soldier. And this is the way to lead for a soldier. From the front.”
And Northern Army Commander, Lieutenant General DS Hooda said in an interview to NDTV, “The ethos of the Indian Army, the culture of the Indian Army – these are things that are sometimes not very well understood. We have a concept of unlimited liability. A man goes into battle, a man faces terrorists and he faces them sometimes with certainty that he could lose his life.”
Colonel Mahadik, the commanding officer of 41 Rashtriya Rifles, was killed in a counter-infiltration operation in the Manigah forest of Kupwara. He was at the forefront of a search party which was pursuing terrorists in extremely inhospitable terrain when terrorists targeted him with heavy machine gunfire.
The bullet that killed him struck his neck, an area that was not protected by his bullet-proof jacket. The operations to neutralise the terrorists are still continuing.
The son of a milkman in Maharashtra, Santosh Mahadik stepped away from the family trade to join the Army. Friends describe him as a champion boxer, goalkeeper and runner; one of the fittest boys in school. “He was the most prepared officer to come to the Academy. He was physically the fittest, the strongest with the most endurance. He had a penchant for helping not just his peers but also his subordinates,” said Colonel Sumeet Dua, an old friend from when the two were in the Indian Military Academy together.
(With inputs from ND TV)