Unforgettable Hero: Major Somnath Sharma, India’s First Recipient of Param Vir Chakra

02 Nov 2017 14:07:48


 

PANKAJ GUPTA

On 3rd November, 1947, we lost one of our bravest among the brave Major Somnath Sharma, who sacrificed his life for the nation, while fighting the enemies in Badgam, Jammu & Kashmir. The legacy of military is as vast as India itself. It is difficult to find audacious people in the world but India has the distinction of finding such people in umpteen numbers. They are there in our military forces, who are ready to sacrifice anything for the motherland and laying their own lives is too trivial for them. The history is the testimony of it. It is unfortunate that such gallant knights go into anonymity and we rarely talk about their sacrifices. Though miscreants make false allegations against the entire Indian army and belittle such brave hearts yet their love for mother India makes them unrelenting. These brave hearts are ready to go to any extreme for the safety of mother India and one such hero of Indian army was Major Somnath Sharma, the first recipient of the Param Vir Chakra (PVC), India's highest military decoration. It is important to mention here that PVC is equivalent to the Medal of Honor in the United States and the Victoria Cross in the United Kingdom, which given to the men in army for their bravest act. Major Sharma was the real hero of the war, fought between Indian army and Pakistani aggressors on 3rd November 1947, to safeguard J&K after its accession to India. His inclination and valour to do something for mother India can be gauged from the fact that he was unsatisfied that he has not been given an active assignment because of his fractured hand. This account of Major Sharma was mentioned in Operation Rescue: Military Operations in Jammu & Kashmir 1947-49 written by Lt. Gen S.K. Sinha, PVSM (Retd). But his destiny has some other plan for him and his wish came true very soon.

Major Sharma was born on 31st January, 1923 at Dadh in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, in a family of army men. His father Amar Nath Sharma, was a Major General in the Indian Army who later became the first director general of India’s Armed Medical Services. His uncle Captain K D Vasudeva, had died defending a bridge on the River Slim against the Japanese during the Malayan Campaign in World War II. Major Sharma’s inclination to join the army was noticeable since his school days. Major Sharma completed his schooling from Sherwood College in Nainital. Later he was admitted to the Prince of Wales Royal Military College in Dehradun and his further studies were completed at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Major Sharma was formally commissioned into the 8th Battalion, 19th Hyderabad Regiment, on 22nd February, 1942 of the Indian Army and later to the 4th Battalion, Kumaon Regiment. Major Somnath also earned the laurels of ‘Mention-in-Despatches’ for his meritorious action during Arakan Operations in Burma.

Major Sharma was working with 4th Kumaon Regiment when Pakistan invaded J&K on 22 October, 1947. This invasion prompted India to respond back and the first troops, along with equipments, were airlifted from Delhi. Major Sharma’s Company too was airlifted on 31st October, 1947. Though Major Sharma’s left hand was plastered at this time yet his inner voice did not allowed him to stay back and rest. He insisted on going to the battlefield to repel the invaders from the newly independent state of India. His company was deployed for the protection of local airfield in 1947 when the ghastly act was committed by Pakistani invaders. On 3rd November, 1947 the enemy infiltrated the Badgam in Kashmir Valley (Jhelum Valley).  The village was important as it is just a few miles away from the Srinagar airfield. Major Sharma’s cleverness and valour both were appreciable. He understood the problems quickly and found that the real intention of enemy was to capture the airfield. He was right. By 2.30 pm afternoon the 700 strong tribal raiders, equipped with heavy weaponry attacked 100 jawan’s of Major Sharma’s company.  His company was surrounded from three sides by the enemy and suffered heavy casualty. The 7:1 ratio of enemy was a daunting problem and anyone would have surrendered but this man did not move even an inch. On the contrary, he raised the moral of his soldiers by his words and action, as he knew the importance of holding his position. The Srinagar airfield was important as it was connecting the Indian army with Kashmir valley and capturing it would mean blocking the entry of Indian troops into the Valley by air. Two pantaloons were already fallen but Major did not give up and remained on his position. Apart from directing the fire of his troops on the enemy, he was filling magazines and issuing them to the light machine gunners, when his own hand was fractured. This man did not consider his own life important than nation and laid down the cloth strips to guide the Indian aircraft onto the targets in full view of the enemy. The last message, when he was in the middle of the war, that he sent to army headquarters was: “The enemy are only 50 yards from us. We are heavily outnumbered. We are under devastating fire. I shall not withdraw an inch but will fight to the last man and the last round”. Soon after, a mortar shell exploded and this brave man laid to rest. But even his sacrifice inspired the soldiers, who held the enemies on their position for another six hours, which gave time to the reinforcement to reach the battlefield and they brought the situation under control. By this time the enemy has suffered heavy casualty as the raiders had lost over 200 men and their leader had been incapacitated, resulting in their movement losing its impetus. But we lost our brave heart Major Somnath Sharma and 20 other soldiers of 4 Kumaon regiment. Mr. Sharma’s courage prevented the fall of Srinagar and arguably the Kashmir Valley. 

The Indian government recognised the valour of this man and conferred PVC on him posthumously. His citation reads “His leadership, gallantry and tenacious defence were such that his men were inspired to fight the enemy outnumbering them. Major Sharma set an example of courage and qualities seldom equaled in the history of the Indian Army”.

PVC is the highest gallantry award of bravery and it is given to the bravest of the brave. It has been conferred only onto the 21 army men till date. The PVC was not existing when Major Sharma died but after more than two years of his death. The award was established on 26 January 1950, which was conferred on Major Sharma for his valour shown while safeguarding the airfield near Badgam on 3rd November, in which he lost his life. It is important to state that the highest gallantry award is not served on the platter but it is earned.

Soldiers like him not born every day and will always be remembered with gratitude for their service to this nation. The army men heroic act made them the real heroes and major Sharma was one among them whose name will always shine.

We Salute Major Somanth Sharma! We Salute Indian Army! Jai Hind!

 

 

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