Colonel Bikumalla Santosh Babu, the commanding officer of the 16 Bihar regiment who led from the front against the Chinese Army attack in the Galwan valley in the Ladakh sector during Operation Snow Leopard in June last year, was on Tuesday posthumously awarded Mahavir Chakra, India’s second-highest wartime gallantry award, by President Ram Nath Kovind for displaying exemplary courage during the hand-to-hand combat.
Colonel Santosh Babu's wife B Santoshi and mother Manjula received the award at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and the top military brass of the country.
Four other soldiers, Naib Subedar Nuduram Soren, Havildar (Gunner) K Palani, Naik Deepak Singh and Sepoy Gurtej Singh, who also laid down their lives valiantly fighting the Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley clash on June 15 last year, have been honoured with the Vir Chakra award posthumously.
Havildar Tejinder Singh of the 3 Medium Regiment, who was part of the Indian Army team at Galwan Valley clash and survived the combat, has also been conferred with the Vir Chakra award. Vir Chakra is the country's third-highest wartime gallantry award.
Naib Soren's wife Laxmi Mani Soren, Havildar Palani's wife Vanathi Devi and Naik Singh's wife, Rekha Singh, received the award from the President.
Sepoy Gurtej Singh's mother Prakash Kaur and father Virsa Singh received the Vir Chakra from the President.
Twenty Indian Army personnel had laid down their lives in the fierce hand-to-hand combat in eastern Ladakh's Galwan Valley clash, an incident that marked the most serious military conflict between the two sides in decades.
In February, China officially acknowledged that five Chinese military officers and soldiers were killed in the clashes with the Indian Army though it is widely believed that the death toll was higher.
The Rashtrapati Bhavan, in a tweet, said Col Babu displayed exemplary leadership, astute professionalism and conspicuous bravery in the face of the enemy and made the supreme sacrifice for the nation.
Colonel Babu, despite being grievously injured, led the Indian troops from the front with absolute command and control despite hostile conditions.
He valiantly resisted the enemy attack till his last breath, while inspiring and motivating his troops to hold ground, during the 'Operation Snow Leopard'.
The citation said Col Babu has been awarded the Mahavir Chakra for displaying "exemplary leadership, astute professionalism and supreme sacrifice" in the line of duty.
The Indian Army has built a memorial for the 'Gallants of Galwan' at Post 120 in eastern Ladakh.
The memorial mentioned their heroics under 'Operation Snow Leopard' and the way they evicted the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops from the area while inflicting "heavy casualties" on them.
Naib Subedar Soren, who was part of the 16 Bihar Regiment, led his column and resisted the enemy's attempt to push back the Indian soldiers while establishing an observation post, according to official details.
He organised his column, countered the adversary forcefully and stopped them in their attempt to push back Indian troops.
Soren displayed raw courage, fighting with a resolute spirit before succumbing to his injuries.
Havildar Palani stood bravely and tried to defend his comrades even when the enemy attacked him with a sharp weapon.
His act of valour inspired other fellow soldiers to fight fiercely and resist enemy aggression. In spite of his grievous injuries, he continued to hold his ground resolutely and laid down his life for the motherland, according to the details.
Naik Deepak Singh, who too belonged to the 16 Bihar regiment and was performing duties as a nursing assistant, played a pivotal role in rendering treatment and saving the lives of more than 30 Indian soldiers.
Sepoy Gurtej Singh, who was from the third battalion of the Punjab regiment, successfully spotted the enemy troops while establishing the observation post.
Singh displayed raw courage and exceptional combat skills in resisting the enemy troops and kept fighting even after he was seriously injured, according to the official accounts of the clash.
Several other armed forces personnel were also honoured at the ceremony held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Notable among them was the Shaurya Chakra awarded posthumously to Major Anuj Sood of the 21st Battalion, Rashtriya Rifles.
(with PTI inputs)