Valiant Soldier (1976-2015)
Play your role in life with such passion, that even after the curtains come down, the applause doesn’t stop.
– Col Rai
Col. M.N. Rai hailed from Ghazipur in eastern Uttar Pradesh and grew up in Kalimpong, where his father was a teacher. He was the youngest of three brothers and joined the Army. He was tough and helped two other cadets by carrying their packs in a gruelling route march, so that the platoon got a good position.
He joined 2/9 Gorkha Rifles (GR) in September 1997, and took over the command of 42 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) in May 2013. Rai was conferred the Yudh Seva medal on the eve of Republic Day in 2015 for outstanding contribution in planning and conduct of operations, including a gun battle with militants in south Kashmir. A foreign terrorist was killed. He was the youngest officer to receive this honour. Rai had taken a number of initiatives for the positive engagement of youth like organising cricket and football tournaments. Clearly under his leadership, the narrative in Tral was changing. He earned the admiration of all the administration for his meticulous planning and we have seen how Tral turned out to vote. Earlier, it was considered to be the most volatile area of Kashmir and a militancy hotbed.
Bravery came easily to Col. Rai, the other two brothers also having earned gallantry awards. The eldest brother D.N. Rai of CRPF was awarded a police gallantry medal for battle against the militants who had stormed the Raghunath Temple at Jammu. More than a dozen people were killed and many more injured. The other brother, Y.N. Singh, was wounded by a Lashkar-e-Taiba militant.
On 28 January 2015, Col. Rai received information about the presence of two hard core militants of Hizbul Mujahdeen organisation in village Hindoora in area Tral of Pulwama district. Soon, 42 RR and 185 CRPF forces cordoned the village. The militants were hiding in the house of Jalal-ud-Din. The two militants, Avid Khan and Siraj Dar had been working with Hizbul for three and one year respectively. They both were involved in many terrorist operations. Avid Khan belonged to Hindura and had come to visit his family. Abid Hussain Khan was a major support for militant Burhanuddin Wani. He was instrumental in motivating the local youth to join the militancy.
Avid’s father is a head constable and mother is a government employee. Siraj Dar was involved in killing and intimidating Sarpanches. Once the house where the militants were hiding was cordoned off, Col. Rai was approached by the father and brother of one of the slain terrorists, saying he would like to surrender. While Rai was hearing them out, the terrorists burst into the scene firing indiscriminately. Colonel Rai displayed quick thinking and retaliated immediately and after a one-hour gun battle, the two terrorists were eliminated. The officer’s swift actions prevented many civilian casualties during the operation. Two AK 47 rifles along with ammunition and other warlike stores were recovered. The operation was based on specific intelligence.
Col. Rai, Head Constable Sanjeev Singh and Signalman Nilesh Kumar were injured and were airlifted to the Army Hospital in Srinagar. Col. Rai and Sanjeev Singh succumbed to the injuries while being evacuated. Colonel Rai’s funeral was held in Brar Square, Delhi Cantonment. Army Chief General Dalbir Singh, Vice Chief of Army Staff and other senior officers besides Col Rai’s relatives were present. ShriAkhileshYadav, Chief Minister of UP, paid tribute and announced a grant.
Col Rai is survived by his wife, two daughters and a son. Emotions ran high as the funeral pyre was lit by his brother, D.N. Rai. Rai’s 11-year-old daughter Alka, choked up as she shouted her father’s regiment’s old battle cry:
“Tiger 9GR, ho ki hoina?” “Ho, Ho, Ho!”
(Was he a tiger? Yes, Yes, Yes!)
Then she raised her right hand to salute him for the last time as she burst out in tears. Her war cry led to the Gorkha officers and soldiers repeating it several times over. She plans to join the army. She is a proud daughter and said, “My father was a brave father.”