A day after he was awarded the Yudh Sewa Medal, a gallantry award to honour his services in Kashmir, a high ranking Indian army officer was killed yesterday fighting suspected terrorists in a village in south Kashmir's Pulwama district.
Colonel Munindra Nath Rai, 39, according to a Reuters report is the highest ranking military officer to die in fighting in the disputed Himalayan region in over a year, said the police. Jammu and Kashmir Police Head Constable Sanjeev Singh was also martyred in the encounter.
He was shot and wounded on Tuesday, and succumbed to his injuries at the 92 Base Camp hospital at the Badami Bagh cantonment in Srinagar.
"Unfortunately in an operation in Tral, J-K, Indian Army lost a Commanding Officer due to militant action. Col Munindra Nath Rai from 9 Gorkha Rifles who was CO 42 RR. He had been awarded a YSM (Yudh Seva Medal) on 26 Jan 2015," said a statement by the Army.
The Yudh Seva Medal is recognised as the highest honour for distinguished service in war or conflict. Police superintendent Tahir Saleem said four people were killed in the operation, including a policeman and two militants.
According to NDTV, Colonel Rai received intelligence inputs that terrorists were hiding in a house in the area and he rushed with a quick reaction team or QRT to the spot. A local SOG (Special Operations Group) of the Jammu and Kashmir Police also accompanied them.
The report said that when Colonel Rai's team reached the house and cordoned it off, the residents, suspected to be relatives of the terrorists, requested them not to carry out a full-scale operation, as that would entail sequestering the entire village.
Even as strategies were being devised, two terrorists engaged in blind firing after rushing out. The colonel was hit in the temple and fatally wounded and the SoG personnel was killed. The two terrorists were shot down by the radio operator who was injured in the fight.
Col Rai was conferred the Yudh Seva medal for outstanding contribution in planning and conduct of operations including a gun battle with militants in south Kashmir last year, the spokesman said.
Hailing from Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh, Col Rai, who was from the 9 Gorkha Rifles but was on deputation to RR, is survived by two daughters and a son. (With inputs from agencies)