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Martyr's village searches for a memorial

It has taken successive state governments 63 years to decide on building a memorial in honour of the country's first Param Vir Chakra recipient Major Somnath Sharma at his native village. Gaurav Bisht reports.

india Updated: Apr 09, 2011 23:00 IST
Gaurav Bisht

"The enemy is 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."

That was Major Somnath Sharma's last message to brigade headquarters in November 1947.

Shortly afterwards, the young officer was killed while leading his men on a fighting patrol to Badgam village in Kashmir while evicting Pakistani raiders from Srinagar airport.

For his exceptional bravery under duress, the native of Dadh village in Himachal Pradesh was posthumously awarded the country's first Param Vir Chakra, India's highest gallantry award.

It has, however, taken successive state governments 63 years to decide on setting up a memorial in honour of Major Sharma at Dadh (about 13 km from Dharamsala town).

The Himachal Pradesh government has now taken a fresh initiative to erect a memorial gate in Dadh.

Major Sharma continues to inspire village youngsters to join the army. The village panchayat has passed numerous resolutions to construct a gate as a tribute to him. But the demand has gathered dust as funds allocated by government have never been enough to build the memorial.

Sharma came from a military family.

His father, Major General (retd) Amarnath Sharma, who headed the Army Medical Corps, set up a charitable dispensary in 1955 in memory of his son.

A small board with Major Sharma's name on it is the only reminder that he was from the village.

In 2000, the state government paid tribute to Major Sharma by installing his bust in Palampur town close to the circuit house. The government has now given approval for setting up a gate at the village junction.

"The designs have been finalised by the public works department," Kangra deputy commissioner RS Gupta said. "Work would start soon."

According to Gupta, two gates would be built in Dadh - one dedicated to Major Sharma and the other devoted to the deity Mata Chamunda.

The martyr's family believes that the government has acted too late.

"True memorial for soldiers is where people pay respect. Political leaders bow their head only for public (consumption)," said Major Sharma's older brother General (retd) VN Sharma, a former chief of army staff.

"But I believe memorials should be something worthwhile that are used for public welfare.