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Galwan clashes: Col Santosh Babu awarded Maha Vir Chakra posthumously, Vir Chakra for five others

Colonel Bikumalla Santhosh Babu, Commanding Officer of 16 Bihar regiment, was awarded the country’s second-highest military gallantry honour for fighting Chinese soldiers “till his last breath”.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: November 24, 2021 3:47:38 am
‘I am proud... but devastated, he won’t call me to say Amma’Colonel B Santosh Babu.

Colonel Bikumalla Santosh Babu was awarded the country’s second-highest military gallantry honour, the Maha Vir Chakra, posthumously on Tuesday for fighting Chinese soldiers “till his last breath”. Colonel Babu’s mother and wife received the award from President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi.

The investiture ceremony also witnessed the awarding of five Vir Chakras, four of which were posthumous, for the fighting in Galwan Valley on June 15, 2020. The awards were announced on the eve of Republic Day earlier this year.

Colonel Babu was the Commanding Officer of 16 Bihar regiment which was deployed in Galwan Valley for Operation Snow Leopard. India and China had been involved in a military standoff from early May last year, and the two sides had been discussing disengagement. It was during this period that troops from both sides got involved in a hand-to-hand combat in the Galwan Valley, near Patrolling Point (PP) 14 , on June 15, which resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers, including Babu, and at least four Chinese troops.

Babu’s citation mentioned that as the CO of his unit, he was tasked with establishing an Observation Post in the face of the enemy, which he successfully did. “While holding the position his column faced stiff resistance from the adversary who attacked using lethal and sharp weapons along with heavy stone pelting from adjoining heights. Undaunted by the violent and aggressive action by overwhelming strength of enemy soldiers, the officer in true spirit of service before self, continued to resist the enemy’s attempt to pushback Indian troops,” it said.

Babu, despite being “grievously injured” the citation stated, “led from the front with absolute command and control despite hostile conditions to deter the vicious enemy attack at his position”. In the “ensuing hand to hand combat with enemy soldiers, he valiantly resisted the enemy attack till his last breath, inspiring and motivating his troops to hold ground”.

He has been awarded the second highest military award for gallantry “for conspicuous bravery in face of enemy, exemplary leadership, astute professionalism and supreme sacrifice in the line of duty”.

Four of his soldiers, who were killed during the clashes, have been awarded the Vir Chakra (posthumously) as well. These include Naib Subedar Nuduram Soren who “valiantly led his column and resisted the enemy’s attempt to push back the Indian soldiers establishing an Observation Post”. His citation mentioned that Soren “countered the adversary forcefully and stopped them in their attempt to push back Indian troops” and during the combat “was viewed as a daunting leader and was targeted by the enemy soldiers with lethal and sharp weapons”.

“Being grievously injured when asked to move back, as a true leader he refused, in spite of being heavily outnumbered by the enemy soldiers.”

Havildar (Gunner) K Palani also fought “valiantly” in combat and “saved his subordinates from the aggressive action of the enemy soldiers” even as “the adversaries outnumbered and encircled him” he stood “bravely and tried to defend his comrades even when the enemy attacked him with sharp weapon injuring him seriously”.

Naik Deepak Singh was performing duties of Battalion Nursing Assistant at that time and provided treatment to casualties of the fight. “Having assessed the battle condition, he moved up for immediate medical support. As the skirmish broke out and casualties increased, he moved to frontline rendering First Aid to own injured soldiers. In the ensuing skirmish coupled with heavy stone pelting, he received serious injuries, but undeterred and tirelessly, he continued to provide medical aid.” Singh saved many lives before succumbing to his own injuries.

“He was pivotal in rendering treatment and saving lives of more than 30 Indian soldiers, which reflect the epitome of his professional acumen,” his citation mentioned.

Another soldier who died during the clashes was Sepoy Late Gurtej Singh, who “displayed undaunted bravery, raw courage and exceptional combat skills in resisting the enemy troops in a fierce hand to hand combat” and even after being injured “he continued to fight the enemy valiantly and also extricated own injured troops, thereby saving number of fellow soldiers of his patrol party before making the supreme sacrifice”.

The only Vir Chakra awarded for the fight to a person who survived is Havildar Tejinder Singh of 3 Medium Regiment. “Undeterred by the numerical superiority of the enemy, the Non Commissioned Officer took on the enemy in a hand to hand fight and resisted them gallantly. He also organised a group of soldiers to effectively thwart several enemy soldiers displaying exemplary leadership.”

His citation stated that this “gallant act was pivotal in inspiring own troops to effectively engage the enemy troops during the violent standoff” and he “kept on leading his column valiantly and fought fearlessly till, he was grievously injured”. He was awarded for displaying “selfless commitment and unflinching leadership beyond the call of duty in the face of the enemy with the highest traditions of Indian Army”.

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