Somnath Sharma is probably one of those early martyrs who left footprints on the sands of time. His dedication towards serving and protecting the country and his undaunted conviction is etched in our memories. Decorated with the Param Vir Chakra, which is India’s highest military honour, Sharma was a part of the 8th Battalion of the 19th Hyderabad Regiment and served the country during the Second World War. It was during the India Pakistan War in 1947 when he lost his life at the ripe age of 24 years on a counter insurgency operation at the Srinagar Airport.
Sharma hailed from Dadh, Kangra district, Himachal Pradesh. He came from a family of army officers. His father and his siblings too worked in the Armed Forces. His schooling was exemplary as he passed out from Sherwood College, Nainital. After this, he was admitted to the Prince of Wales Royal Military College in Dehradun after which he went on to study at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.
Somnath Sharma was highly influenced by the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita and the doctrines of Lord Krishna and Arjuna, that spoke of fulfilling the worldly duties and the importance of dharma which were enthusiastically recited to him by his grandfather.
His Military Prowess
After he got commissioned into the Indian Army in 1942, Sharma was deeply influenced by the events of the World War II and his time in Burma during the Arakan campaign fetched him a lot of despatches.
But the turning point in his army career came during the Indo Pakistan War where an intrusion by Pakistan in the Kashmir Valley in 1947. And the D Company of the 4th Battalion of Kumaon Regiment was sent to Srinagar under Sharma’s supervision, who despite being injured due to a fracture during a game of hockey willingly volunteered to serve the forces at this crucial time.
The Badgam division in Kashmir was encroached by infiltrators on all sides and mortar attacks were launched by a team of militants approaching from Gulmarg. He continued with the fight and inspired his soldiers to do the same, while himself facing some of the firing from consecutive posts. In fact, he took upon himself to distribute arms and ammunition to his men and at that time a mortar shell exploded near him on a huge heap of arms. As he surrendered to his injuries, his last words were:
“The enemies 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 our last man and our last round.”
As Major Sharma and his men fought relentlessly, laying 200 intruders to the ground, the Indian forces flew over Srinagar and blocked the enemy and combat the situation. But in the bargain around 21 people were killed and Sharma lost his life too. As his corpse was recovered after 3 days, disfigured beyond recognition, the only identification that helped was the pages of Bhagavad Gita he would always carry in his chest pocket.
A Man of Timeless Valour
As Major Somnath laid his life for the country, and gave the Indian forces a margin of 7 hours to control the infiltration at Srinagar, he was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra for the first time ever.
As a mark of respect for his bravery, a crude oil tanker owned by the Shipping Corporation of India was also named after Major Sharma.
Written By: Aishwarya Sharma