Srinagar: The Colonel-level Commanding Officer, who died fighting militants in Kashmir, was on Wednesday hailed by the Army for always leading from the front in operations and reaching out to youths in militancy-hit areas.
As the Army paid its tributes to the slain officer, it has also emerged that Col Munindra Nath Rai, 39, CO of 42 Rashtriya Rifles (RR), who had only on Monday won a military medal, was killed yesterday when he gave a chance for surrender to a group of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists whom he was battling in Tral in Pulwama district.
A top Army General said Col Rai's swift actions prevented many civilian casualties during the operation. Head Constable Sanjeev Kumar Singh of the Special Operations Group (SOG) of Jammu and Kashmir Police was also killed during the encounter in which two militants were also gunned down.
"Col Rai always led from the front in multiple operations that he carried out in 2014 and also in 2015. He combined bravery with compassion and people in Tral knew him very well for his several initiatives," General Officer Commanding of the Srinagar-based Chinar Corps Lt Gen Subrata Saha told reporters after the wreath laying ceremony at Badami Bagh Cantonment in Srinagar.
Army Chief General Dalbir Singh also praised Col Rai, saying the young officer had set an example of leadership for others.
"He was a very brave officer and he had been awarded Yudh Seva Medal on January 26. And it is an example of leadership that the moment he got information about two terrorists in that area, he immediately went in with his QRT and some other people," Gen Singh said.
"I must say it was a very very brave act and also indicates that our Army officers lead men from the front," he told reporters in Delhi.
As friends and colleagues recalled the contribution of Rai, one of the senior-most officers to be killed in the last one year, Gen Saha said, "the supreme sacrifice of the brave men only strengthens our resolve to fight all elements inimical to security of Kashmir.
Gen Saha said once the house where the militants were hiding was cordoned off, the father and brother of one of the terrorists approached Rai claiming that the ultra wanted to surrender. But even as Rai gave them an opportunity to do so, the militants came out of the house firing indiscriminately leading to the gunbattle.
The officer's swift actions prevented many civilian casualties during the operation, Saha said and noted that Rai had taken "a number of initiatives for the positive engagement of youth like organising cricket and football tournaments".
"Clearly under his leadership, we could say that 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," Saha said.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav paid glowing tributes to Col Rai and sanctioned Rs 30 lakh financial aid to his family members. The officer, who hailed from Ghazipur in UP, is survived by his wife, a son and two daughters.