A pall of gloom descended over the family and relatives of Colonel Bikkumalla Santosh Babu, as they pay last respects here on Thursday. The colonel was killed by Chinese troops during violent clashes at the Galwan Valley.

The emotionally-charged crowd holding national flags raised slogans of “Santosh Babu amar hai” as the tricolour-wrapped coffin was brought out of the ambulance by the army personnel.

The body was flown from the national capital in a special aircraft to Hakimpet Air force base near Hyderabad at 8 PM. Telangana Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan and Telangana IT and Industries Minister K T Rama Rao were among those who paid their last respects at the airport station before the mortal remains were brought here.

Offering condolences, the governor in a statement said the slain officer’s supreme sacrifice would be remembered by the nation.

“The funeral will take place on Thursday at the family’s own land. The family members will perform their rituals in the morning. Afterwards the last rites will be performed as per army honours. We are allowing only 50 people for the last rites. There will be a separate enclosure for media at a nearby piece of land,” Suryapet collector T Vinay Krishna Reddy told PTI.

People on the way holding tricolour showered flowers on the ambulance which was carrying the colonel’s body Santosh’s wife Santoshi along with her two children landed at the Hyderabad airport on Wednesday morning from Delhi. Cyberabad Police Commissioner VC Sajjanar received them at the airport and consoled the family members.

A defence press release said the Indian Army paid its last respects to Santosh Babu. The mortal remains of the officer was received at Hakim pet Air Force Station by senior government officials and Military personnel of Headquarters Telangana and Andhra Sub Area with full Military honours befitting a soldier.

Telangana Pradesh Congress President Uttam Kumar Reddy met the bereaved family here and handed over handed a condolence letter written by party president Sonia Gandhi.

At many places across the state people and members of different political parties and other organisations paid floral tributes to the army officer.

Holding national flags and banners that read “We salute the soldiers” they raised ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and ‘Vande Mataram’ slogans, took out rallies and paid their respects. Santosh was among the 20 soldiers who were killed in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh on Monday night during a clash with Chinese troops in the first such incident involving fatalities after a gap of 45 years, signalling a massive escalation in the five-week border standoff in the sensitive region.

Santosh Babu an alumnus of Sainik School Korukonda and National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla got commissioned into the Bihar Regiment from Indian Military Academy, Dehradun and went on to complete the prestigious Defence Service Staff Course from Wellington before taking over the command of his Battalion.

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