A day after he was awarded the Yudh Seva medal, Colonel Munindra Nath Rai, Commanding Officer of 42 Rashtriya Rifles, was killed in an encounter with militants at Tral in Pulwama district on Tuesday. A policeman and two militants were also killed.
“Unfortunately in an operation in Tral, J&K, Indian Army lost a Commanding Officer due to militant action — Col Munindra Nath Rai from 9 Gorkha Rifles who was CO 42 RR. He had been awarded a YSM (Yudh Seva Medal) on 26 Jan 2015,” said an official statement from the Army.
“He was a brave officer and was involved in intense operations in south Kashmir over the last two years,” Col Brijesh Pandey, Col GS (IW) HQ, 15 Corps, told The Indian Express. “He always led from the front and undertook successful operations. He was awarded the Yudh Seva Medal yesterday in recognition of his exemplary service and bravery,” he said.
A resident of Ghaziabad, Rai is survived by his wife, two daughters — 11 years and eight years — and a six-year-old son.
According to police sources, a joint team of the Army and J&K Police’s Special Operations Group had cordoned off Handoora village in Tral following a tip-off that one of the militants, identified as Aabid Hussain Khan, was on his way there to meet his family. Khan was reportedly accompanied by Shiraz Hassan Dar, who is reported to have joined the Hizbul Mujahideen two years ago.
When the two militants realised that they were trapped, they reportedly opened indiscriminate fire, wounding policeman Sanjeevan Singh. When Rai, who was leading the Army team, rushed inside the house where the militants were holed up, he was also shot “in the upper body”. Both Rai and Singh later succumbed to their injuries.
Both the militants were killed. Two other security personnel, Nilesh Kumar and Sanjay Kumar, were also injured.
Police sources said the two militants were also behind the capture and killing of three soldiers in Tral in 2013. Khan is alleged to be the militant in the purported video of a captured soldier which was later released.
Rai, who took charge of 42 RR on 5 May, 2013, was awarded the Yudh Seva Medal for his “astute professionalism and unparalleled leadership”. “The battalion, under his exemplary leadership, eliminated four hardcore terrorists of Hizbul Mujahideen, including their divisional commander, apprehended nine overground workers, thus dismanting the support structure of terrorists, and recovered large quantity of warlike stores, apart from busting two hideouts. He ensured undisputable dominance of Tral, a hotbed of militancy, and denied space to terrorists, resulting in secured environment in the area and safe conduct of Shri Amarnathji Yatra,” said the citation.
According to sources, Rai’s elder brother is also in the Army, while his younger brother is in the CRPF. The latter is reported to have survived a similar attack in 2002.