The Army today paid glowing tributes to Colonel MN Rai, who died fighting militants in Jammu and Kashmir, recalling his efforts to reach out to youths in the militancy-hit region and said such sacrifice only strengthens its resolve to fight elements inimical to peace.
“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.
“The supreme sacrifice of the brave men only strengthens our resolve to fight all elements inimical to security of Kashmir,” he said as friends and colleagues recalled the contribution of Rai, one of the senior-most officers to be killed in the last one year.
Rai, 39, commanding officer of 42 Rashtriya Rifles, and head constable Sanjeev Kumar Singh Special Operations Group (SOG) of Jammu and Kashmir Police were killed during the encounter in Tral in Pulawama district on Tuesday, in which two militants were also gunned down.
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,” Lt Gen Saha said.
Rai was conferred the Yudh Seva medal on the eve of Republic Day for outstanding contribution in planning and conduct of operations including a gun battle with militants in south Kashmir last year.
Saha also said the army would always give an opportunity to the militants to surrender wherever such a situation comes up.
“We have been giving this opportunity wherever the parents or relations do come up to try and say that they would like to ask their son or relation to surrender. So in all fairness, we try to give them this opportunity and I would not try to add any further motives to that,” he said.
Saha said the families of both Col Rai and head constable Singh “were uppermost our prayers today. We stand by them in this hour of grief and all times to come.”
Col Rai’s body is being flown to Delhi today and it will be kept at the Delhi cantonment crematorium. His last rites will take place tomorrow. Top officers of the army and other security agencies were present in Srinagar to pay tributes to the slain officer.
Col Rai, a native of Ghazipur area of Uttar Pradesh, is survived by wife, a son and two daughters.