For six-and-half years, Colonel Ashutosh Sharma made 12 unsuccessful attempts to join the Army. It was in the 13th attempt, a number considered unlucky by many, that he fulfilled his dream of donning the olive green uniform.
Col. Sharma, who was among five security forces personnel killed during an encounter with terrorists in north Kashmir late on Saturday night, is the second commanding officer of the 21 Rashtriya Rifles who lost his life in an anti-terror operation. The decorated army officer was part of a number of successful counter-terrorism operations in Kashmir.
Remembering Col Sharma, his elder brother Piush says that he always used to have his way, come what may. “It was like my way or the highway for him. His only dream was the Army and nothing else,” says Piush, who works for a pharmaceutical company in Jaipur. “He had waged a war to join the Army one way or the other until he finally achieved success in his 13th attempt. From that day, there was no looking back for Ashu (Col Sharma),” Piush told PTI.
Col Sharma joined the Army in the early 2000s.
Putting up a brave face, Piush recalled a conversation that he had with his brother, three years younger to him on May 1.
Army personnel leave after an encounter with the militants in the Chanjmullah area of Handwara in Kupwara district of north Kashmir. An Army Colonel and a Major were among five security personnel killed in the encounter with terrorists. Photo: PTI
“It was the Raising Day of the Rashtriya Rifles and he informed us about how they had celebrated it amid the Covid-19 pandemic. I used to caution him many a time and he had a standard reply — ‘muje kuch nahi hoga, bhaiya’ (nothing will happen to me, brother)…,” he said, struggling to hold back his tears.
Col Sharma had sent some pictures and that is the last memory that the family has of the officer, Piush said, adding, “Had I known that I am speaking to him for the last time, I would not have ended that call at all.”
His friend Vijay Kumar, who is a Deputy Commandant in CISF, said, “I advised him to look for other paramilitary forces but it was all Greek to him. It has to be only Army and Army, and the army was his reply always.” “His mannerism was always at its best and I have never seen anyone raising any complaints against him when we used to live in Bulandshahr (Uttar Pradesh),” he said.
Holding on to Col Sharma’s daughter Tamanna, who studies in class six, Piush said she could not yet understand how the realities have changed for her overnight.
“But, she is a brave child of a brave father and she will be fine,” he said.
Remembering his nature of going out of the way for his jawans and solving all their problems, Piush said, “The only regret Ashu had was that he could not join the Special Forces.”