There are conflicting versions of the timing and circumstances of the encounter at Chanjimullah village, Handwara. In my view, this is not important. The Army will carry out an in-depth analysis to learn the relevant lessons because Commanding Officers are not killed in action everyday. The last time a Commanding Officer — Colonel Santosh Mahadik, 41 Rashtriya Rifles — was killed in action was in November 2015.
In the Handwara encounter, Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, Major Anuj Sood, Naik Rajesh Kumar, Lance Naik Dinesh Singh and J&K Police Sub-Inspector Shakeel Qazi had been killed in action while eliminating two terrorists who had held some civilians hostage in a house. My salute to the bravest of braves killed in action and to their families.
The Commanding Officers are the backbone of our Army. Their primary responsibility is to train and administer their units, issue orders/directions and exercise command and control in battle. It speaks volumes of their leadership that when required by the dynamics of battle, our Commanding Officers have led from the front to join combat in order to accomplish the mission at the cost of their lives.
But what is more important is for the government and the Army to review the political and military strategy to deal with the situation in J&K. This encounter and the killing of three CRPF personnel that followed on 4 May, is part of a disturbing trend that has been noticeable for the last few months.