Ex-soldier presumed dead rejoins family after 11 years

A retired Army man from Kerala feared dead for over a decade was reunited with his family members after being found in a ragged state on the streets of Madhya Pradesh’s Mandla district last week.

The 40-year-old man, who appeared to be mentally unstable, was identified after some locals got suspicious about his activities and alerted the police on July 3.

Arms knowledge

“He was shouting that he had knowledge about arms and ammunition, including their technical details. This alarmed the residents as movements of Maoists are often reported in Mandla," said a police officer.

Soon, a team from Tilgam police station reached the spot and detained the suspect. At the police station, the man once again muttered "I know all about arms and ammunition" in broken Hindi mixed with some Malayalam words. This made the police decide to take the help of a person from Kerala.

They approached Sister Mercy of Motinala church and she volunteered to help the police trace the whereabouts of the “suspicious-looking” man. As luck would have it, the vagabond talking to invisible others was identified as Santosh Kumar, an Army man from Signal Corps, last posted in Sikkim in 2006.

“In 2007, Santosh’s left eye was injured and he reportedly became mentally ill. He opted for retirement and decided to go back to his home State. However, instead of reaching Kurawein Purple House in Alappuzha district of Kerala, Santosh reached Mandla after wandering the country by train for the last 11 years,” Rakesh Kumar Singh, Superintendent of Police, Mandla, said over the phone.

Once Mr. Santosh’s identity was established, the Tilgam police made arrangements to tidy up the man who had slept rough for over a decade.

New look

In new clothes and shoes his photos were clicked and exchanged with the Kerala police, which in turn got in touch with Mr. Santosh’s family members who had even conducted his last rites.

On July 7, the younger brothers of Mr. Santosh reached Mandla and were elated to see him alive.

The ex-Army man recognised his brothers but was unable to remember how he reached Mandla, Mr. Rakesh Singh said, adding that they left for Kerala the same day.

Asked if Mr. Santosh remembered his village, Satheesh Kumar, his younger brother, said: "Despite returning to the village after 14 years, he recognised our ancestral house. He recognised every family member who came in front of him."

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