Colonel Bikkumalla Santosh Babu, one of the 20 Army personnel killed in a clash with Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh on Monday night, had got orders for posting to Hyderabad three months back. He could not leave, first due to the lockdown and then tensions with China.
On Tuesday, as news came of the death of their only child, Colonel Santosh’s parents, who live in Suryapet in Telangana, said they had been expecting him to come any day now with his wife Santoshi and son
and daughter, with the lockdown having been lifted a fortnight ago.
“Santoshi and the children were packing to shift to Hyderabad from Delhi, and the children told us how excited they were that we would be nearer. We were aware of the tensions at the border but never imagined this would happen,” said Colonel Santosh’s father B Upender.
Commanding Officer, 16 Bihar, Santosh had been serving in Ladakh for one-and-a-half years. Mother B Mallika said he had always wanted to join the Army. “He had made up his mind while at school.” From 1993 to 2000, he studied at Sainik School, Korukonda, in Visakhapatnam district, before joining the Army.
On Tuesday, as news of the Colonel’s death in the clash in Galwan Valley was conveyed to his parents first by Santoshi and then the Army, their house in Suryapet was surrounded by hundreds of people, including shocked neighbours.
Upender said Santosh was an ideal son, caring and devoted to them. “Whenever he came on leave, he would spend most of his time with us.”
Havildar Palani, 40, who was also killed in the clash, is survived by his wife and two children. His brother Idayakani, also a soldier, informed the family, belonging to Kadukkalar village in Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu, about his death.
The Havildar’s family told the media that he had spoken to his wife a few days ago and said he might not be able to call for a few days. Idayakani said Palani had served in Rajasthan and Allahabad before his Ladakh posting, and that he had joined the Army inspired by Palani.
PTI quoted Suryapet district police R Bhaskaran as saying Santosh’s mortal remains were expected to reach his native place on Wednesday.
Santosh’s parents said they were proud that “he sacrificed his life while protecting the nation”. “Army authorities called us saying he made the supreme sacrifice in defence of the country… But personally we are heartbroken and cannot comprehend this tragedy,” said his father.
Breaking down, mother Mallika added, “I am proud my son sacrificed his life for our country, but as a mother, I am devastated. He was the kind of person who wouldn’t think twice before putting his life in danger to save someone else’s. He was like that since childhood… It is yet to sink in that he is no more; that he won’t greet me with ‘Amma’ again in his booming voice.”
Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and Opposition leader M K Stalin, among other leaders in Tamil Nadu, condoled the death of Palani and the others. The state government has declared Rs 20 lakh solatium for Palani’s family and promised a government job to a dependent family member.
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