Famous as a village of soldiers, Pogarwadi on Thursday bid a tearful adieu to its son, Colonel Santosh Mahadik (37), who was martyred during a fierce gunbattle with militants in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district.
Mourners flocked to the tiny village in Maharashtra’s Satara district from different parts of the state, with serving and retired officers attending the funeral.
Chants of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai…Santosh Mahadik Amar Rahe” rented the air as the officer was laid to rest with a 21-gun salute and full military honours at the ZP school ground in Pogarwadi. Every inch of the primary school premises was filled with people wanting to pay their last respects to the slain officer. The funeral pyre was lit by Col Mahadik’s five-year-old son, Swaraj.
The officer, who originally belonged to the elite 21 Para unit of the Special Forces, was awarded Sena Medal (Gallantry) for his exceptional service and leadership as a young officer while fighting the terrorists in Lolab Valley in Kupwara in 2003.
On Tuesday, he died during an encounter with terrorists in Manigah forest area of Kupwara.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar visited the family in the village on Thursday and assured them of government’s full support in their hour of grief. Talking about her children, Kartikee and Swaraj, Col Mahadik’s wife Swati told the minister that both will join the armed forces.
Born on January 15, 1977, Col Mahadik was commissioned into Army in 1998. The son of a milkman, Col Mahadik studied at the Satara Sainik School.
“He was always very calm and composed. But after spending some time with him, one would realise there was a soldier within him. He was determined to join the Army and he did it. He would catch live snakes, eat raw crabs. We kept in touch, and we knew that his approach towards terrorism and insurgency had a human touch. We all saw a true military leader in him. We are proud of him,” said his batch-mate from Sainik School. As per the local tradition, no food was cooked in the village from Wednesday. A villager said that as a mark of respect, food is only cooked in the village after performing the last rites of the martyr. The officer’s mortal remains were received in the village Thursday with locals showering the coffin with marigold petals.
Another soldier from Pogarwadi, Ashok Ghorpade, laid down his life during Operation Parakram in 2002 while fighting with the terrorists in Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir.
“This soil has it… Many from my family and relatives are in the Armed forces and many who are of my age want to continue the tradition of serving the country. Death of a soldier is always tragic, but we take pride in the fact that we belong to his village. We will pay our respects by serving in uniform for the nation.,” said Prashant Ghorpade, a boy from the village who is preparing to join the Army.