COIMBATORE: A 21-year-old aerospace engineering student from Tamil Nadu who was twice rejected by the Indian Army because of his height is now fighting for Ukraine against Russia as part of the Georgian National Legion paramilitary unit comprising volunteers, according to an intelligence report to the Centre and the state government.
Intelligence sleuths visited the house of Sainikhesh Ravichandran at Subramaniyampalayam, near Thudiyalur in Coimbatore, a few days ago and met his parents. Two days ago, they submitted a report describing his family background, conduct and the probable reason for his decision to take up arms for Ukraine.
Sainikhesh’s family had apparently attempted to convince him to return home, but he refused.
A police officer who was part of the team that gathered information about him said they found portraits of soldiers plastered across a wall in his room. Sainikhesh completed his schooling at Vidya Vikasini Matriculation institute in 2018.
After Class XII, he tried to join the Army but didn’t make it. A family friend told TOI that he once approached the US consulate in Chennai, seeking to know if he stood a chance of joining the American army. On realising he coudn’t, Sainikhesh enrolled for a course at National Aerospace University in Kharkiv in September 2018. He stayed at the university hostel.
His family told the police that Sainikhesh was “normal” all these years and keenly pursuing his studies. His five-year course ends in July.
The young man last visited India in July 2021 and stayed for about one-and-a-half months. He would stay in touch with his family through regular phone calls, said a family friend.
A month ago, Sainikhesh called his family and told them that he had found part-time employment in a video game development company. “When the war broke out, he was incommunicado for four days. That’s when we saw a media report about a Tamil Nadu youth joining the Ukrainian forces and we were shocked,” the family friend said.
The family sent an email to the Indian embassy in Ukraine, inquiring about Sainikhesh. There was initially no reply. After a couple of days, the embassy contacted the family and sought Sainikhesh’s details. Much to their relief, Sainikhesh contacted them and assured them that he was safe. He expressed his desire to continue in the paramilitary force. Multiple attempts by his family members to convince him failed.
“We are in a terrible situation now. Please do not ask about my son,” said his father Ravichandran, 52. His mother Jhansi Lakshmi, 48, is a homemaker and his younger brother Sairohit, 17, is a Class XII student.
The family plans to meet officials in the state and Union governments to help bring their son back.