Srinagar: For a week, Colonel Santosh Mahadik led his troops in a hunt for terrorists who crossed the border recently and are hiding in the thick jungles of Kupwara in Kashmir. On Tuesday, the officer died after being shot in the head during a heavy gunfight.
The Army today paid a moving tribute to the 38-year-old colonel, who leaves behind his wife and two sons, 11 and seven.
Colonel Mahadik was the commanding officer of anti-terror force 41 Rashtriya Rifles and always led from the front, according to his colleagues.
The Kupwara operation was particularly challenging because of the inhospitable terrain, but the Colonel chose to personally lead his men in the operation. The search for the terrorists continues, says the army.
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.
An officer of the elite Para Commando force of the army, he volunteered to take charge of anti-terror operations in Kashmir.
The Army said the Colonel had led many successful counter terrorist operations and was awarded the Sena medal for gallantry.
"We owe a deep debt of gratitude to officers like Santosh who lead from the front and are willing to pay the ultimate price in the fight against terrorism," Lieutenant General DS Hooda, Army Commander, Northern Command said.
Colonel Mahadik was the second senior officer killed while fighting terrorists in Kashmir.
Colonel MM Rai, commanding officer of 42 Rashtriya Rifles was killed in January in an encounter with terrorists in south Kashmir's Tral area.