Colonel Santosh Babu, 37, the Indian Army officer killed in a violent clash with Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh on Monday night, was known among his seniors as a humble and soft-spoken officer who took care of his juniors.
One of the last conversations with Babu, an officer recalled, was about the school admission of his two children in Secunderabad where he was to be posted next. The officer said Babu was looking forward to serving in his home state.
The commanding officer (CO) of the 16 Bihar Regiment, Col. Santosh was killed in action during an unarmed clash with the Chinese troops in the Galwan valley in Eastern Ladakh Monday night. His mortal remains are expected to arrive in Hyderabad Wednesday evening.
Col. Santosh’s wife, B Santoshi, and their two children, Anirudh and Abigna, who have been living in Delhi, reached Hyderabad Wednesday morning.
According to officials, the late officer’s mortal remains are expected to reach Air Force Station, Hakimpet at 6:30 pm on a special Leh-Chandigarh-Hyderabad via Nagpur flight.
After the ceremonial wreath-laying and parade at AFS Hakimpet, where all officers of Colonel-rank and above will pay their last respects, the mortal remains will be carried to his native town Suryapet by road for cremation with full military honours.
“Colonel Santosh was down to earth and not at all aggressive in nature. A very soft-spoken man, always cool and calm. On the whole, a balanced human being,” Colonel S Sreenivasa Rao, who also belongs to Suryapet, told indianexpress.com
Col. Rao said he was eagerly looking forward to his two-years posting in Secunderabad. “For any officer in the Army, it is an honour to serve once in their home state. He was also searching for a good school for his children. As Telugu officers, we all used to keep in touch, we respect each other and take care of each other’s personal requests in different locations,” he said.
Recalling his last meeting with the late officer at the Army War College, MHOW near Indore in 2017, Roa said Colonel Santosh often spoke about his juniors and also urged youngsters to join the Army. “He always took care of his juniors,” he said.
“We lost a great officer. Traditionally, the intake in the Indian Army from southern states has been very poor. I salute his parents for sending their only son to Sainik School and letting him join the Army despite hailing from a trader’s community. This shows their loyalty to the nation.”
Colonel Arun Kulkarni, the principal of Sainik School-Korukonda where Col Santosh studied, said Col Santosh was an active participant in alumni activities and stayed in touch with his school teachers.
“The teachers who taught him speak very highly of him. He was an all-rounder. He was excellent in academics, always topped in the class. He took part in all sports and games activities, literary activities, extracurricular activities, and was a very disciplined cadet,”Col. Kulkarni said.
The slain officer had last visited the school in 2018 during a silver jubilee reunion event. “He was in touch with teachers. Wherever he could assist the school, he would. The alumni of Sainik schools are very active. He is a big role model for the students after valiantly fighting the enemy in the highest battlefield, and making the supreme sacrifice for the nation,” the principal added.
A two-minute silence was observed and a condolence meeting was held on Wednesday during the school’s online classes. The school is closed owing to the Covid pandemic.
“Whatever comes his way, he would overcome and never look back. His only ambition was to do good for the nation and serve his battalion,” another officer who had served with Col. Santosh said.
Another officer remembered Col. Santosh as a highly dedicated, efficient, and hardworking officer. “Whatever came his way, he would overcome and never look back. His only ambition was to do good for the nation and serve his battalion,” Lt Col. Bhagwan said.
Lt. Col. Mohan Raghav, a senior from Sainik School-Korukonda who had served with the slain officer in the past, said: “Santosh Babu had joined as Lieutenant just before I joined the unit. He was always seen in combat dress. He was very busy with operational duties. He would jump into any task and, however, never complain about anything. He just wore a smile on his face.”
“At a young age, he went on to become a Colonel. That’s an achievement in 15 years of service. That alone speaks for his dedication and hard work,” he added.
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