Major Somnath Sharma: The First Param Vir Chakra Recipient Who Saved Srinagar

Major Somnath Sharma: The First Param Vir Chakra Recipient Who Saved Srinagar

Major Somnath Sharma's sacrifice remains a beacon, illuminating the path of valor for generations to come.

Rahul MUpdated: Tuesday, January 30, 2024, 09:44 PM IST
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Major Somnath Sharma |

Major Somnath Sharma, On January 31, 1923, was born into a distinguished military family, destined to etch his name in the annals of Indian history. At the tender age of 24, he made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, becoming the inaugural recipient of India's highest gallantry award, the Param Vir Chakra.

Commissioned into the 8th Battalion, 19th Hyderabad Regiment, later serving in the 4th Battalion, Kumaon Regiment, Major Sharma's valor shone during the tumultuous times of the Pakistan-led tribal revolt in 1948. Defending the crucial Srinagar airport, his leadership and the efforts of his men thwarted the invaders, providing a vital window for the Indian army to fortify defenses and safeguard Kashmir from falling into enemy hands.

Sharma's dedication to duty during World War II

Major Sharma's dedication to duty was evident earlier during World War II, particularly in the Burma campaign. A defining moment showcased his leadership as he carried a wounded comrade on his shoulders, embodying the ethos that no soldier is left behind on the battlefield.

In October 1947, as Pakistan launched Operation Gulmarg, aiming to forcefully seize the Kashmir valley, Major Sharma, despite a fractured arm and being technically unfit, insisted on leading his troops to Srinagar. Just 5 km from the airfield, in the strategically important Badgam village, he faced overwhelming odds. Outnumbered seven to one, his company valiantly repulsed attacks, buying precious time for reinforcements.

Sharma's heroic move

Recognising the imminent threat to Srinagar town and the airfield, Major Sharma ordered air strikes on the enemy positions, guiding aircraft to their targets. Despite the success of the aerial assault, the relentless enemy continued their onslaught. Running low on ammunition, Major Sharma, refusing to retreat, sustained a fatal blow while aiding his men in battle.

His sacrifice, however, proved pivotal. Major Sharma's heroics inspired his men to hold their ground for over six hours, inflicting heavy casualties on the raiders. This delay in the enemy's advance allowed reinforcements to arrive, ensuring the protection of Srinagar against Pakistan. Over 300 raiders perished, and Major Somnath Sharma's legacy was etched in history as the first Param Vir Chakra awardee, a symbol of heroism, patriotism, and unwavering courage.

His gallant act saved Srinagar, and his memory lives on as a testament to the indomitable spirit of those who defend the nation. Major Somnath Sharma's sacrifice remains a beacon, illuminating the path of valor for generations to come.

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