Major from Mumbai, three other soldiers killed near LoC

MUMBAI/SRINAGAR: Major Kaustubh Rane (29), posted along the Line of Control in J&K, had made it a habit to call up his family at Mira Road, a Mumbai suburb, in the wee hours and let them know that he was fine. On Tuesday, a call came to his parents around the same time, informing them that their only son had been martyred.

Major Rane was killed, along with three soldiers, while foiling an infiltration bid near the LoC in Gurez sector of north Kashmir’s Bandipora district early on Tuesday morning. At least two terrorists were shot dead in the encounter, which was underway till last reports came in.

Soldiers of 36 Rashtriya Rifles intercepted the infiltrators near Govind Nullah in the Bakhtor area along the LoC, triggering a gunfight. Sources said there were eight infiltrators, four of whom fled to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The bodies of two slain terrorists could be seen, while two more are believed to be injured and hiding in the area.

The Indian soldiers who were killed have been identified as Rifleman Mandeep Singh, 26, and Havildar Hameer Singh, 28, of Uttarakhand, and Havildar Vikramjeet Singh, 25, of Haryana. Vikramjeet had got married only a few months ago. His father is a farmer in a village around 10km from Ambala cantonment and his younger brother is also serving in the army.

Major Rane had been conferred the Sena medal on January 26 this year and promoted as major. He used to live in Mira Road in Thane district with his wife Kanika, son Agastya who turned two last month, and parents Prakash and Jyoti Rane.

Major Rane’s uncle Pratap said Kaustubh wanted to be a soldier since his childhood and his parents—Prakash worked in a private firm and Jyoti retired as a school headmistress—encouraged him to pursue his dreams.

He recalled that as Kaustubh was on duty at a location that did not have network connection, his calls to his family would come in the wee hours when he came within range. “Kaustubh would make it a point to call his parents and say he was OK. The conversation would last for a few seconds, but he would assure them he was fine,” said Pratap.

Kanika and her son were in her native Ratnagiri when the news was broken to her. Jyoti had left for the Konkan coast on Monday and Prakash got the call a little before he was to take a train to Ganpatipule. The family is expected to gather in the city soon.

The family has been staying in their first floor apartment at Hiral Sagar building, Sheetal Nagar, for about 30 years. Kaustubh completed his schooling from Holy Cross Convent in Mira Road. A science graduate, he went on to join the army and got his first posting at Kupwara in J&K in 2011 as a lieutenant. In 2013, he became a captain and was posted in Kolkata. He then joined 36 RR and was posted to the Gurez sector in January 2017.

Family members recalled how Kaustubh would explain the tough life he led as a soldier, but always spoke fondly about his work and the pride he felt in guarding the country’s borders. His neighbours remembered Major Rane as a jovial person who was interested in various sports.

(With inputs from agencies)

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