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Colonel Munindra Nath Rai (SC, YSM)


Colonel MN Rai

KnowYourHeroes

19/07/2021

 

Kashmir has been the epicentre of all the terrorist infiltration from Pakistan's launchpads, however, few specific regions in the Valley are far more notorious than the others, border areas namely Kathua, Rajouri, Poonch, Samba, Kupwara, Bandipora, Baramulla and Pulwama have been the hotspots for the infiltrators to cross the Line of Control(LoC) and instil terror in the Kashmir Valley. Since 2014, the Indian Army has adopted an 'all out' aggressive approach to clear the Valley from all the terror activities. One of the prominent players in the Indian Army's 'all out' mission was the Commanding Officer of 42 Rashtriya Rifles Battalion, Colonel Munindra Nath Rai. Col Rai and his battalion were on the prowl to hunt down every Pakistani terrorist who entered the Valley, notably in the year 2014, 110 infiltrators of various Pakistani terror outfits had been gunned down. The gutsy Commanding Officer of 42 RR, known for his quick-wit, meticulous planning and firm decision-makings had taken the Valley by storm, assuredly every terrorist infiltrating across LoC had learnt his name beforehand. Col MN Rai had been actively leading his men in various counter-insurgency operations, being an avid soldier and an ace leader, he stood firm at the frontline and always walked shoulder to shoulder with his men. The journey of a young affable boy who remoulded into a valiant and consummate Officer started years back in the passage and the drill-square of the Officers Training Academy.


Hailing from Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh, young Munindra didn't have to ponder a lot on his career choices, he was focused to join the Indian Army and so were his elder brothers who wanted to serve the Armed Forces, alike his brother MN Rai too got selected to train at the Officers Training Academy while one of the elder brothers joined the CRPF. Commissioned into the 2/9 Gorkha Rifles of Indian Army in September 1997, Col MN Rai evolved himself into a committed soldier and an outstanding Officer during his 17 years of service. In 2013, Col MN Rai was deputed to 42 RR, responsible for the security and counter-insurgency operations in the Tral sector of Pulwama district. Within one and a half years of taking over the command of 42 RR, Col Rai had changed the narrative completely in the Tral sector. This region, once known for high infiltrations and terror activities soon turned into a safe, terror-free environment under his leadership. A calm, composed officer; full of life was adored by everyone, especially by people in Tral, who loved him for the various initiatives he took for the welfare of the region. Colonel MN Rai was decorated with Yudh Seva Medal on the eve of Republic Day in 2015 for tactfully leading his men in various counter-insurgency and cordon-hunt operations.


However, the celebrations didn't last long. On January 27, 2015, Col MN Rai received firm inputs about the presence of terror outfits in a nearby village in the Tral sector. A joint operation was launched by the Indian Army, CRPF and J&K police to neutralise the terrorists, the operation spearheaded by Col MN Rai himself was indeed very tricky. The unknown number of terrorists were hiding in a house and a gun battle would have led to civilian casualties, Col Rai thence decided to first evacuate civvies and then engage the militants. On being challenged, the terrorists resorted to heavy firing and an inevitable gun battle ensued. Amid all this, the father and brother of one of the terrorists informed Col MN Rai that the perpetrators want to surrender. Commanding Officer displaying positive leadership and following the Indian Army's doctrine of WHAM(Winning Hearts and Minds) decided to give the terrorists a chance to surrender and thus lowered the firings. However the militants took advantage of this situation and rained fire while trying to escape, amid the heavy firing, Col MN Rai was hit by enemy bullets and later succumbed to his injuries, just 24 hrs after being decorated with Yudh Seva Medal. At the funeral, the tears in Alka Rai's eyes filled her face as she bid farewell to her father with a fervent cry "Tiger 9 GR Ko! Ho ki Hoina?" Colonel MN Rai was honoured with Shaurya Chakra for the exhibition of courage and ethos of the Indian Army while leading his men from the front as he always did.

 

Born in the Derhgava village of Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh to Shri Nagendra Rai and Shrimati Shiv Dulari Rai, Munindra Nath was the youngest among the three brothers. Shri NP Rai, father of Col Rai is a retired Principal from Government High School in Kalimpong sub-division of Darjeeling, West Bengal. Shri NP Rai was also the senior-most coordinator of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) activities in Kalimpong. The three brothers had watched their father give selflessly to the nation and that was when the desire for a uniform spurred them to join the Armed Forces. The discipline and the regulations instilled in Dhirendra Nath, Yatindra Nath, and Munindra Nath were evident since childhood and that enabled them to achieve their goals in life, the eldest brother DN Rai is now a Lieutenant Colonel in the Gorkha Regiment while YN Rai is Commandant in 48 Battalion of Central Reserve Police Force(CRPF).

Colonel MN Rai
Colonel MN Rai

Munindra Nath Rai got commissioned into the 2/9 Gorkha Rifles in September 1997 after passing out from the Officers Training Academy, Chennai. Operating alongside his Gorkha soldiers, Munindra Nath had put in almost 15 years of service and rose to the rank of Colonel. Col MN Rai had been married to Priyanka Rai and together they had three children, two daughters Alka and Richa and a son Aditya. In the year 2013, Colonel Rai got deputed to the 42 Rashtriya Rifles Battalion as Commanding Officer. The RR Battalions are a counter-insurgency force that draws soldiers from various regiments of the Indian Army. The Rashtriya Rifles are meant to look after the security and counter-insurgency operations in 12 sectors of Jammu and Kashmir, 42 RR is responsible for the Tral sector in Pulwama district.

Family of Colonel MN Rai
Colonel MN Rai and family

An alumnus of Officers Training Academy, Chennai and Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, Col Rai was a simple and honest man, with no traces of anger, he was full of life, cracking jokes and making people laugh. Back during the training days, his batchmates had fondly nicknamed him "Pappu". Life in Academy can be tough and daunting, to make the atmosphere light and cheerful, Munindra Rai would always crack jokes that revolved around the character 'Pappu', hence the fabled nickname. "During training, we saw a different side of him… One day we had to ‘race back’ to our academy. The exercise involves running long distances with a 20 kg weight on the back along with one’s rifle. That’s when we saw the ‘superhuman’ side of him. Some of us were dehydrated. He not only carried his own bag then but two more bags to ensure that the platoon doesn’t feel let down. That was the sense of his pride," recalls Major Sanjay Tanwar, a Shaurya Chakra awardee and batchmate of Col Rai.

Colonel MN Rai
Colonel MN Rai felicitating a student of Tral

After taking over the command of 42 RR, Col MN Rai had been on a spree to pin down the Pakistani terrorists infiltrating Kashmir. Within one and half years, the Tral sector had been cleared of all terror activities, people in Tral were pleased with the work of Col Rai, he had taken several initiatives for uplifting the status of this region. The Tral sector, once known as militant hotbed was now witnessing growing engagement of youth in sports, all thanks to the cricket and football tournament initiatives taken up by Col MN Rai. It was Col Rai's presence on the hunting ground that guided his men through the operations, he was the leader of the pack. Although he loved the feeling of a 7.62mm bullet flying out of his Kalashnikov rifle, he was not the only one in the family to possess such courage. Col Rai's elder brother Commandant Yatindra Nath Rai had been at the helm of the affairs in the Valley too, back in the year 2002, the then Assistant Commandant YN Rai showed immense courage amid two 'Fidayeen'(suicidal) attacks on Raghunath Temple, Jammu which fetched him the President's Police Medal for Gallantry.

Commandant YN Rai
Commandant Yatindra Nath Rai

Raghunath Temple, with seven shrines each with its own Shikhara(Sanskrit for "mountain peak" referring to the rising tower of the temple), is one of the largest temple complexes in North India. Built between 1853 and 1860 by Maharaja Gulab Singh and his son Maharaja Ranbir Singh, the temple enshrines Lord Ram and other Hindu deities. The enormous Raghunath temple attracts devotees in large numbers from across the country, however, in the year 2002 it had caught everyone's attention for all wrong reasons. March and November were the months for the two fidayeen attacks, the first attack occurred on March 30, 2002, when two Lashkar-e-Taiba suicide bombers barged into the temples and lobbed grenades on the devotees and blew themselves up that resulted in 11 casualties including three security personnel while more than 20 people were left grievously injured. A similar attack followed in November, two fidayeen terrorists stormed into the temple complex from the main checkpoint, the first grenade was hurled at the main gate that killed a CRPF Jawan. "He threw the grenade. I closed my eyes and left myself to God. Only God could save me! I will go back to guard the temple once I am fit. God saved me," said a temple sentry who was guarding the temple during the November attack.

Raghunath Temple attack
Raghunath Temple attack visuals
"I was in the main temple in the centre of the complex with two more priests and some devotees, when we heard the first explosion. It has happened before. So we knew instantly what it was," recalls a Mandir Pujari

Following the explosion of the first grenade in the temple complex, the phone began ringing at Assistant Commandant YN Rai's residence, some 5 kilometres away, where he was sitting with his wife and son. In less than an hour, Assistant Commandant YN Rai was preparing to go inside the temple to gun down the terrorists. "The terrorist was hiding behind a pillar, next to the main temple building. There was a curtain hiding him... I saw him and fired," Rai remembered. With YN Rai's keen aim, he never had a chance of missing his target. The terrorist fell dead on the spot, and YN Rai was now advancing to check if all the terrorists were down. Despite the clearing of Raghunath Temple's main complex, the next day, an attack was staged a few kilometres away at Shiv Mandir in Panjbaktar, the assistant commandant YN Rai ran to take charge of the situation. Despite being exhausted by the day's events, YN Rai remained poised to handle the situation. Security men on the ground informed Rai that the terrorists had moved into a nearby house, so he went inside with a few CRPF jawans and fired grenades until the attacker stopped responding. To ensure the terrorist had been killed, YN Rai entered the house firing in different directions. However, he encountered complete silence until moments before he was about to leave. A terrorist holed up inside the house started firing, three bullets hit YN Rai's left arm, but he was able to kill the terrorist with his sharp aim. The President's Medal for Gallantry was awarded to Assistant Commandant YN Rai for exhibiting impeccable leadership, displaying sheer courage, and overcoming the attack calmly.


Colonel Munindra Nath Rai's entire family is filled with brave warriors who fight day in and day out to protect the people of this country. In 2014, as many as 110 terrorists had been gunned down in South Kashmir whilst 42 RR commanded by Col Rai scored maximum kills. The Colonel never sat inside an air-conditioned room while ordering his men to fight the infiltrations; he rather walked shoulder to shoulder with the men and guided them at every turn. In the year 2014, during a gunfight with the terrorists in South Kashmir, Col Rai demonstrated excellent military tactics and strategy to eliminate the militants. In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the containment of militants in the Valley, Col Rai received the Yudh Seva Medal on the eve of Republic Day in 2015. He was also the youngest among the thirteen Officers who were awarded Yudh Sena Medal in 2015.


"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," read the citation

Colonel MN Rai's Yudh Sena Medal

The Deception

 
Tral, Jammu and Kashmir

Just 24 hours ago Col Rai was decorated with Yudh Seva Medal, but there was no celebration, no merrymaking, just another day at work. At the crack of dawn on January 27, 2015, Colonel Rai and his unit received credible information about few hardcore Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists hiding in Hundoora village in the Tral sector of Pulwama district. Colonel Rai quickly drew a plan and launched a joint cordon and hunt operation with 185 Battalion of CRPF and J&K police. Putting on the Ballistic Helmet, bullet-resistant jacket and slinging his favourite AK-47 Rifle, Col MN Rai was up in arms to lead his men in yet another gunfight. Within minutes of receiving the information, Commanding Officer Rai with his 42 RR unit, CRPF Jawans and J&K police reached the Hundoora village. What appeared to be straightforward hunting turned out to be highly deceiving, the Hizbul terrorists were holed up inside the house of a Handoora resident, Jalal-ud-Din who also happens to be a J&K police constable and father of one of the slain terrorists. Col Rai firstly wanted to ensure all the civilians are safe if a gunfight follows, hence he evacuated everyone from the cordon area and took an apt position surrounding the house.

Colonel MN Rai
Colonel MN Rai during a CI operation

The terrorists holed up inside the house were identified as Aabid Hussain Khan and Siraj Hassan Dar, Aabid involved in killings in Valley for more than three years was a major supporter of Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani and had come to visit his father Jalal-ud-Din, a head constable in J&K police and mother, a government employee in Hundoora while Siraj Dar had been active with Hizbul since one year. Both these terrorists had been on the radar of the Indian Army and this was the perfect opportunity for Col Rai to put these two down. On being challenged by the operating units, the two terrorists resorted to heavy firing and thence an intense gunfight ensued among the two camps. Amid the ongoing face-off, Colonel MN Rai was approached by the father and the brother of Aabid, saying that the military need not kill the 'boys' as terrorists wanted to surrender. As a policy, the Indian Army has always offered a second chance to Kashmiri youth who wish to turn away from terrorism and reintegrate into local communities. Colonel MN Rai, demonstrating positive leadership and respecting the "Winning Hearts and Minds" policy of the Indian Army, lowered the firing to allow the two Hizbul Mujahids to surrender.


While the operating units kicked back a little to let the two terrorists come forward and surrender, the two Mujahids saw a pitch-perfect opportunity to escape from the village. To flee safely, Aabid and Siraj used the situation to their advantage and started firing at the security forces surrounding the house. Colonel Rai was at first satisfied thinking that they had helped two terrorists turn away from the path of violence and it might inspire other militants to follow, but was soon taken by complete surprise. The terrorists had burst into the scene firing indiscriminately, Col Rai shook the initial shock away and took guards to counter the incoming fire. In the next hour of an intense gun battle, both the Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists had been gunned down by our security force, however, during the heavy exchange of fire, J&K Police Head Constable Sanjeev Singh and Col Rai took severe blows from enemy bullets and breathed their last at 92 Base Hospital.

"He was always in the frontline, leading his men to deliver exceedingly well. If it were not for his quick response, quite clearly, there could have been causalities on the civilians who were there in the vicinity along with his brother and others," said Lt Gen Subrata Saha
"He was a brave officer and was involved in intense operations in south Kashmir over the last two years," said Col Brijesh Pandey

Colonel Rai was only two months away from a posting, had it been March 2015, Col Rai would have been deputed to some other place but such is the calibre of these Officers who invariably take risks and lead their men from the front disregard to their own life. Pretty sure, Col Rai would have chosen to fight in the Valley rather than taking a safe posting. At the funeral, Priyanka Rai, wife of Late Col MN Rai was devastated, it was a treacherous betrayal of trust that led to this moment. While the mortal remains of Col Rai were finally being lifted, Veernari Priyanka Rai was bewildered and couldn't comprehend what had just happened, "Listen to me… Are you listening… I am saying something to you," she cried while bidding a final farewell to her beloved. With tears gushing out of her eyes, Alka Rai stood before her father putting up the brave face, she paid a fitting tribute with the fervent cry, "Tiger 9 GR Ko! Ho Ki Hoina?" (Tiger 9 GR, was he or not?), "Ho! Ho! Ho!" (Yes he was, yes he was, yes he was), replied Gorkha soldiers.

Colonel MN Rai's family paying tibute

Colonel MN Rai was honoured with Shaurya Chakra for displaying exemplary leadership and courage while leading his men in a pretentious situation. "जिंदगी में इतनी शिद्दत से निभाओ अपना किरदार, कि पर्दा गिरने के बाद भी तालियां बजतीं रहें," this was the last WhatsApp status of Col Rai and truly he has inspired many to join the Forces and serve this great nation. Rest in Peace Gorkha, Rest in Peace Colonel Rai.

 

There has been an increasing number of Pakistani backed terrorists infiltrating Kashmir Valley across the Line of Control. Pakistan's intelligence organization ISI has been funding the terrorists for many years with a mere intention to cause havoc in the Valley. If numbers are to go by, more than 2,500 infiltrations have been attempted by terrorists starting 2011 through 2019. However, one thing has not changed, all terrorists be they affiliated with Lashkar-e-Toiba, Hizbul Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammad or other terror groups have been taken down by our security forces.

Our salute goes out to all the soldiers who stand firm in the line of fire to protect us and the great nation. While we are relaxing at home, soldiers are facing enemy bullets, as we pray for their safety and well-being, we remember the soldiers who laid down their lives in the line of duty.


KnowYourHeroes. Lest we forget them

 


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