Unparalleled patriotism and valour (1977-2015)
Col. Santosh Mahadik, SC, SM, was born on 15 January 1977 in Pogawadi, Satara, and studied at Sainik School, Satara. His father was a dairy owner and still supplies milk to the Sainik School at Satara. Santosh was proud of his roots and often referred to himself as a milkman’s son. He was commissioned into the elite 21st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment in December 1998, and became an accomplished paratrooper and combat underwater diver. He was an all-rounder, a keen footballer, an expert horse rider, and a passionate boxer. He was awarded the Sena Medal in 2003 for gallantry in Operation Rhino against extremists in the Northeast. He did not rest on his laurels and volunteered to command 41 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) Battalion in Jammu and Kashmir. He took over command of this unit in July 2014. He had considerable experience in conducting counter-insurgency and counter-terrorist operations. He had a humane approach, and created goodwill and peace in Kupwara town through Operation Sadbhavana by organising sports, education and healthcare initiatives.
Information was received that a few heavily armed militants having infiltrated across the LOC (Line of Control) on 31 October 2015, were trapped in the Manigah forest near Kupwara in North Kashmir. Col. Mahadik was leading a search operation by the Quick Reaction Team (QRT) on the morning of 17 November 2015. The terrain was difficult and the militants had managed to slip away. The team came under heavy and effective fire from the militants hiding in the forest. Col Mahadik tried to outflank the terrorists in order to provide an opportunity to the team to take cover. He was in the open ground and suffered multiple injuries due to gun shots. Unmindful of his safety, he continued to keep the terrorists pinned down. The bullet that killed him stuck his neck, which was not protected by his bullet proof jacket. Two security personnel including one police officer were seriously injured. The fight continued and the body of one militant was recovered by the unit.
Col Mahadik was evacuated to the Durgmulla military hospital, but succumbed to his injuries. He had acted in accordance with the highest traditions of the Indian Army by leading from the front and ensuring the safety of his men. For this act of outstanding leadership, exceptional gallantry and commitment to his task at the peril of his own life, he was awarded the Shaurya Chakra (SC) (posthumous). Colonel S.S. Shekhawat under whom Mahadik had served earlier, said that it was a great loss, but Santosh went in style. To go with a bullet in his chest was the way to go for a soldier. Lt. General D.S. Hooda, Commander, Northern Command, expressed deep condolence and appreciated his commitment to the task. The slain hero’s body was brought in an army cortege to his native village Pogawadi. Thousands of grieving people gathered at the site to pay respects to Santosh Mahadik. Chants of Bharat Mata ki Jai and Santosh amar rahe were raised by the villagers. He was accorded a funeral with full military honours, including a 21-gun salute. He is survived by wife Savitri, a daughter and a son.
Savitri Mahadik displayed rare quality of moral courage and expressed her resolve to join the Army and pursue the ideal of her late husband. She, like her husband, believed in the noble task of integrating the militants into the mainstream. A month after her husband’s death, she shifted to Pune and started preparing for the Services Selection Board. She admitted her two children in boarding schools, and the family supported her. She was 32, and on the recommendation of the Army Chief, a relaxation of age was granted by the Defence Minister. A graduate from the Pune University, she qualified at the written examination and the Services Selection Board. She joined the Officers Training Academy at Chennai, and is looking forward to a career in the Army.