Colonel Santosh Babu, the Ex Commanding Officer of 16 Bihar who fought valiantly in Galwan Valley against Chinese PLA and sacrificed his life along with 20 of his comrades has been awarded Maha Vir Chakra. The announcement has been made on the eve of Republic Day 2021. The awards have been declared just yesterday and the proper ceremony is supposed to be held in March or April. Though I had a word with Colonel Santosh Babu’s family and they all are little dishearten. His sister Shruti who did not sleep the entire night making a Rangoli this Republic Day in the memory of all the twenty soldiers including his brother says
“While we don’t dishonour the Maha Vir Chakra we dont understand why Colonel Santosh Babu could not be awarded Param Vir Chakra? And Not just him we believe all the nineteen soldiers who made supreme sacrifices must be given the same honour but what is astonishing is that only five of them are conferred any sort of gallantry award!”
Colonel Santosh Babu along with nineteen other soldiers were engaged in a violent clash with Chinese soldiers on 15th June 2020 which eventually led to loss of 20 soldiers from Indian side in the fiercest battled between India and China after 1962 war and loss of 43 Chinese soldier. Defense ministry later confirmed how not an inch of land had been lost. The Maha Vir Chakra citation of Colonel Santosh Babu says
” Colonel Bikumalla Santosh Babu, Commanding Officer of 16 Bihar deployed in Galwan Valley (Eastern Ladakh) during Operation Snow Leopard, was tasked to establish an observation post in face of the enemy. Organizing and briefing his troops about the situation with a sound plan, he successfully executed the task. 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,” his citation for the award read.
“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. Despite being grievously injured, he led from the front with absolute command and control despite hostile conditions to deter the vicious enemy attack at his position,”
Besides Colonel Santosh Babu, Subedar Sanjiv Kumar has been posthumously awarded with the Kirti Chakra, the peacetime equivalent of the Maha Vir Chakra. Four other soldiers – Naib Subedar Nuduram Soren, Havildar (Gunner) K Palani, Naik Deepak Singh and Sepoy Gurtej Singh – have been awarded Vir Chakra, the third highest wartime gallantry award. Three soldiers have also been awarded the Shaurya Chakra, the peacetime equivalent of Vir Chakra. The Indian Army had also built a memorial for the “Gallants of Galwan” in eastern Ladakh honouring the braves.
But Shruti says
” All the soldiers who lost their lives in Galwan will always be Param Vir Chkra in our eyes. The Galwan clash is the biggest engagement between India and China since 1962 war and it was a non weapon combat. The Indian side was not even suspecting any kind of attack while the Chinese came prepared and yet the undaunted valour and gallant the soldiers displayed at Galwan is exceptional. We lost only twenty soldiers but Chinese side had lost 43 of their soldiers without an inch of Indian land being compromised. If this was not war what was?”
The weather itself is the biggest enemy at Galwan and Colonel Santosh Babu along with his unit spent more than a year in that area preparing defenses and sowing the seeds of equal negotiations at diplomatic level. It is a known fact how we never suspected the true intentions of Chinese side till Galwan clash and since that incident India had only worked to strengthen its position in Ladakh. We have also been alerted of true intentions of China. Since then not only Indian soldiers have been allowed to patrol with weapons but also more than 50000 soldiers have been deployed. And we can certainly credit the Colonel Santosh Babu his undaunted leadership and the faith of his men in him for this huge psychological shift of Indian mindset towards China. The boycott Chinese products had since become a national movement. #BoycottChona is a common hashtag floating even in the social media profiles of ten year old children.
Even Shurti agrees to this and says
“Certainly The Galwan Clash was the biggest turning point in the history of our nation which pushed not just India but also the world to accept Chinese atrocities openly and embrace the true nationalistic feelings for India. My brother Colonel Santosh Babu had only made supreme sacrifice nothing less and so we demand only the supreme award for him. If there was supposed to be any gallantry award bigger than Param Vir Chakra we feel he even deserved that. He displayed the utmost eligibility for highest gallantry award of India Param vir Chakra but he is being awarded the second in merit Maha Vir Chakra and that saddens us. And I feel the same for all the other soldiers who did not run away, faced enemy bravely and made supreme sacrifices. They all deserve only the supreme awards but only some of them had been honoured. What if they had chosen to back off?”
At the end she also says
“We respect the Maha Vir Chakra but it is about honouring the bravest of all the right way. No matter what in our hearts all the Braveheart of Galwan would only be Param Vir Chakra!”
Though the question Shruti asks has certain answers what if the Commanding officer of 16 Bihar and soldiers under his leadership had chosen to fall back? It may had led to loss of lands the precious Indian lands which demand blood of bravest of all the men it has ever produced to sustain people’s identity as Indian. Why calculating so much honouring the true sons of India?