THE SHEER valour and sacrifice signified by the Kirti Chakra makes it seem heavy in a visiting civilian’s hand when Nirmala Sharma shows the honour that was conferred posthumously on her only son Captain Devashish Sharma, who despite his fatal injury during an operation in Kashmir, insisted that other wounded personnel be evacuated first.
The date is December 10, 1994 in Dangarpur village in Kashmir Valley. As a cordon and search operation progresses, 26 Punjab comes under heavy fire from militants. Captain Sharma, an Army Medical Corps officer, rushes to render medical aid to the battalion’s wounded personnel, but is hit.
As per the Headquarters, 8 Mountain Division, despite being mortally wounded, the young officer, who had undergone about a month’s commando training at Lucknow, shot a fleeing terrorist and continued to render aid to the soldiers.
In the sitting room of Sharma’s nondescript bungalow near the local Shahpura Lake is one of the last photographs of her smiling son, taken on November 18, 1994 while he was attending his maternal cousin’s wedding at Delhi just days before his martyrdom. Beside the frame, the officer’s peak cap sits proudly.
Along with the Kirti Chakra is the Sainya Seva Medal, with a citadel on one side and a hill on the other, conferred by the Jammu and Kashmir government.
“We had saved about Rs 2 lakh for his marriage and he had already found someone special,” Ms Sharma told UNI here.
Her loneliness is compounded by the fact that her husband Jitendra Kumar Sharma, who
was a poet and author and had served as Kendriya Vidyalaya principal, passed away on May 16 this year. Capt Sharma (MR-6368Y) was the family’s sole representative in the Armed Forces. Ms Sharma shows Capt Sharma’s last letter to her. Written on December 1, 1994, it ironically reached her after December 12, the day the officer was cremated with full military honours.
In the letter, emblazoned with the AMC coat of arms and motto ‘Sarve Santu Niramaya’ (let all be free from disease and disability), the doctor addresses his mother as ‘Amma’ and hopes that his parents reached Bhopal safe and sound.
“We returned from my elder sister’s son’s wedding at Delhi and he had come to see us off at the station there,” Ms Sharma recalls. Capt Sharma writes of his train being way behind schedule and about reaching his unit on November 26.
Along with the letter, he enclosed a bank form to be filled in his mother’s handwriting so that his salary could be deposited in Bhopal from January the following year.
He concludes with the words, “yahan par baaki sab theek thak hai, siwai ki kafi thand hai (all else is okay here but it’s rather cold). Chitthi jaldi likhna (write soon). Pyar sahit (with love), Devashish”.
“He had his primary education at Pachmarhi and was selected for the Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) after he had completed the first year of a BSc course at the Hansraj College, Delhi.”
“I desired to become a doctor but couldn’t so I wanted him to become one,” says Ms Sharma. While attached to the 10 Garhwal Rifles, the officer even received the Chief of Army Staff’s Commendation.
“Devashish was very happy with that battalion whose personnel did everything to shield him during adverse situations. ‘Agar doctor hi nahi honge toh hamara kya hoga’ (if the doctor himself becomes a casualty then who will look after us?), the jawans used to say,” Ms Sharma adds.
During his posting in extremism-affected Kashmir, some local women once raised a hue and cry when Capt Sharma attempted to render aid to a woman who had suffered a gunshot wound.
“She is already writhing in pain and if I don’t attend to her she will die within half-an-hour,” the AMC officer had warned the protestors who were objecting against a male physician treating the victim.
Capt Sharma’s words made the sufferer’s mother see reason and she said, “forget about what others are saying. Lieutenant-General D Raghunath — who was the then Director-General Medical Services (Army) — wrote to Ms Sharma.
“The courage and spirit of self-sacrifice displayed by Devashish is now a source of inspiration to young officers of the AMC.
His name is spoken of with awe and a sense of pride... His name will be entered in the Roll of Honour in the AMC Centre, Lucknow.”
Ms Sharma also received communication dated December 12, 1994 from Major-General Sarabjit Singh Grewal, who was then the General Officer Commanding, 8 Mountain Division.
“The formation took immediate action in evacuating him by helicopter to the hospital. Devashish insisted that the other wounded personnel be evacuated first... He was evacuated to the base hospital by helicopter but succumbed to injuries en route.
As a brave soldier he also displayed exemplary courage in killing the terrorist in spite of having sustained serious injuries. Devashish gave his life for the sake of the nation, a noble death for any soldier and a doctor,” wrote Maj-Gen Grewal.
Commissioned in 1992, Capt Sharma’s hobbies were singing —mainly English pop — and playing the violin. He had even joined a music group and performed in Mumbai. Capt Sharma represented Madhya Pradesh in swimming while at the AFMC.