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Major Mohit Sharma (AC, SM)


KnowYourHeroes

21/03/2021

 

A young boy who dreamt to don the maroon beret, infracting his parent's desire, goes on to serve in the Indian Army. Filled with pluck, sheer valor, a man who sipped tea with the Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists, this is the story of 1 Para Special Forces Officer, Ashoka Chakra awardee Major Mohit Sharma aka "Iftikhar Bhatt"

 
Mohit Sharma during NDA training

Born on 13 January 1978 in Rohtak, Haryana in a Sharma Family was Mohit Sharma. He was the second child of his parents Shri Rajendra Prasad and Shrimati Sushila Sharma, being younger of the two brothers, he was a pampered child of the family. Fondly nicknamed "Chintu" by his brother Madhur Sharma and "Mike" by his friends and course-mates, Mohit was a typical Delhi boy, thorough Michael Jackson fan who loved to sing, play, listen to songs and had a keen interest in learning musical instruments.

Major Mohit Sharma

He loved playing guitar & mouth organ and would never shy away from showcasing his vocals and skills.

Mohit dreamt of being in the elite forces from an early age and was all determined to join the Indian Army however his parents didn't approve of his life goals. The reason being, the elder brother Madhur who academically brighter than Mohit wanted to join the Indian Army but didn't have any luck in 3 SSBs and finally settled with engineering, Mohit's parents wanted him too to not waste time and focus on getting a degree from engineering college and settle in the national capital. Mohit Sharma aged 17, got into an engineering college in Shegaon, Maharashtra. ‘He took admission, but from the start, it was clear he did not plan to stay,’ says Madhur(Mohit's elder brother).

Little did his parents know that Mohit had already given the NDA entrance exam before leaving for his college. When the written exam results were declared by UPSC, his parents didn't tell him about his clearance, suspicious Mohit then called on to UPSC directly to know the results. Without telling his parents he boarded the train to Bhopal for appearing in his SSB interview. Followed was his medical examination in Delhi, he packed his bags and called on his parents to tell them that he is coming to Delhi and would never be back to his engineering college. Father Rajendra was ticked off, but he knew Mohit wouldn't chuck the decision to join Army. He was found 4 kg underweight in medicals, however, it wasn't a hard job for his mother, she helped him gain 8 kgs in 4 weeks. He was all set to join the National Defence Academy in Pune in the year 1995.

Mohit Sharma in NDA alongside his horse Indira

During his training in NDA, he was in the India squadron and emerged as one of the best cadets. He was a brilliant horse-rider, prolific swimmer, and featherweight boxing champion in NDA.

He continued his hunger for excellence in Indian Military Academy(IMA), Dehradun in the year 1999, and was appointed as BCA(Battalion Cadet Adjutant) and he was also among the chosen ones to meet the then President of India Shri K R Narayanan at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Mohit Sharma(centre) with NDA cousemates

While he was at IMA, India was fighting the Kargil War with Pakistan, an intense skirmish that had put both countries on a knife-edge. all the course-mates would gather in the common room to watch the evening news. Listening to the news coming from Kargil and Dras, all the trainee cadets would be infused with anger, they were eager to go on to the field and serve the nation in such an insurgency. Years earlier when Mohit's brother asked him, which arm of the military he wanted to join, Mohit prompted without a pause, 'Infantry, what else is there?'

On 11 December 1999, Lieutenant Mohit Sharma was commissioned into the 5th Battalion of the Madras Regiment, one of the Army’s oldest infantry regiments, which dated back to the eighteenth century and had the famous war cry ‘Veera Madrasi, adi kollu, adi kollu (Brave Madrasi, hit and kill, hit and kill)!’

During the celebrations and revelry on his commissioning night, Mohit was asked by one of his coursemates, where he was hoping to be sent, he replied, 'Anywhere I can hit and kill terrorists,' very true to his regiment's war cry. ‘Get yourself into the Special Forces, then,’ his coursemate said. ‘If that’s what you’re looking for, that’s the knife-edge.’ Mohit clinked glasses with him and said, ‘That’s the plan. I’ll get there.'

Major Mohit Sharma, Undisclosed Location

He didn't have to wait for long, 5 months into his commission, in the mid-2000 Mohit's unit was sent to the Poonch-Rajouri sector to operate under 38 Rashtriya Rifles(RR) counter-insurgency force. He was then operating in the most challenging sectors along LOC and frequently worked alongside the Officers and the soldiers of the Army's Para Special Forces units. Lt Mohit Sharma was taking on the full-blown terrorist hunt, high altitude cordon-and-search missions with the greatest of eagerness.



In December 2001, after the Parliament attack, India and Pakistan were on a massive 5-month standoff with high mobilization of troops, artillery, tanks, and other weaponry to the forward posts of the LOC, this was one of the major standoffs since the two countries had gone nuclear three years earlier. India code-named this mobilization as 'Operation Parakaram'. On the threshold of war, Lt Mohit Sharma was on Cordon and Search Operations(CASO) in the Poonch-Mendhar Road working alongside Special Forces in early 2002. During a break from the Operation, Mohit asked the officer if he had a chance with the Special Forces. The officer’s reply was all the validation he needed at the time. ‘Bhai, dekh, I’ve seen absolute beasts of men come and fail to make the cut. And I’ve seen seemingly unimpressive guys come and nail it better than anyone. So what I’m saying is, there is only one way to find out.’

Weeks later Mohit received his first recognition, a Chief of Army Staff Commendation from the then Army Chief, General Sundararajan Padmanabhan, for leading counter-insurgency in the Poonch- Rajouri sector.

Mohit Sharma during Commando Training

In June 2003, after being rejected in his first attempt in the Special Forces Probation due to illness, Captain Mohit Sharma was welcomed into the 1 Para Special Forces Unit.

Brigadier Vinod Kumar Nambiar, then a younger officer with the unit and later its Commanding Officer (CO), remembers the time clearly.

Mohit had come for Special Force's probation to 1 Para. He didn’t get selected initially because he was unwell. And when we turned him away, he said he would be back. Normally, people give up. Probation breaks you. But Mohit recovered his strength and came back to the same unit again. So his feeling for 1 Para was very strong.

Mohit Sharma

He had the humility to come back

despite being rejected in his first attempt. Any normal person would hesitate a bit about going back to the same unit for a probation attempt. He could have volunteered for another battalion, to avoid being rejected twice by the same people. To me, that was the determination aspect of it. Not afraid of failures and not afraid to come back to the same challenge. It also showed his love and affinity for 1 Para “ki kuch bhi ho jaaye, I will come back to the same unit.

Major Mohit Sharma In 1 Para SF



Getting to wear the maroon beret and the Balidan badge was all young Mohit had dreamt of, it was the sole reflection of his sheer determination and bravery which he showed time-to-time not only on the battlefield but also during training.





 


Undercover Mission, somewhere in Shopian, Kashmir, mid-2003

Mohit Sharma aka "Iftikhar Bhatt"

It was in the year 2003 when two Hizbul Mujahideen recruiters Abu Sabjar and Abu Torara(war names) were under the Indian Army's radar, these two Hizbul terrorists were working on recruiting more and more Kashmiris to attack the Indian Army's convoys. One such attack had taken place in May 2002, three terrorists infiltrated the LOC, boarded on a bus in Jammu's Vijay Pura, and attacked the Armymen and their families at their living quarters in Kaluchak. This incident had a devastating effect on Mohit, On a phone call with his coursemate he told, 'he has lost the ability to sleep, how could the terrorists bring themselves to do fire at toddlers'. He was definitely angered, looking for an opportunity to seek avenge. In the year 2003, he volunteered to go inside the Hizbul Mujahideen camp and kill the commanding recruiters.

A young Kashmiri lad with shoulder-length hair, wearing the Kashmiri Pheran going by the name 'Iftikhar Bhatt' approached the dreaded Hizbul Mujahideen in Shopian, Kashmir sometime during 2003. When asked by Hizbul recruiters why he wanted to fight the Indian Army, Iftikhar told, Indian Army was responsible for his brother's death during a stone-pelting incident, he was there to seek help from Abu Sabjar and Abu Tarora to avenge his brother's death. Unlike other recruits, this lad showed great enthusiasm and religious zeal and therefore was marked for further leadership and training. He stood out from rest, he showed hand-drawn maps and Indian Army's convoy, post locations, impressed by Iftikhar, recruiters sent him to Pakistan for further training in Hizbul camp.

A few weeks later, he was finally given a chance to cross LOC and attack on Indian Army Outposts. In an unprecedented move, he was directly deputed by Abu Sabjar and Abu Torar. Iftikhar convinced both of them that he would carry on an accurate attack on the Indian Army, however, Abu Sabjar had a doubt on how this young guy could plan an attack so meticulously, so he started asking questions and about his back story. Sensing the distrust Iftikhar gave his AK-47 to Abu Sabjar and said that they can shoot him if they don't trust him and moved back a couple of steps and pulled out concealed 9mm pistol and shot them, Two to the chest and one to the head, a hallmark of the Para SF. Picking up his weapons, Iftikhar Bhatt walked to the nearest Army camp.

This mission was a tell-tale in the Para SF, Iftikhar Bhatt had immortalized himself.

 
Major Mohit Sharma

Back at his field base before dawn the following day, another officer in the unit would quip at breakfast, ‘You know, Mohit, with that look you’ve got there, you’ll probably end up getting captured or killed by the Army itself while you’re on your next covert mission.’ Mohit had replied, ‘Killed, maybe. But I’ll never get caught.


 

Mohit's mother was always worried about his son's deployment in the J&K but this time Mohit had news that would calm his mother. Mohit was moving to Chandimandir, headquarters of the western command on the outskirts of Chandigarh, to take charge as Para SF team leader. In Chandimandir, Mohit met the love of his life, Captain Rishma Sareen, an Officer with the Army Services Corps(ASC).

Rishma had known very little about this dreaded mission of Mohit, ‘He did share that story with me a few weeks later when he came to see me,’ says Rishma, now a Lieutenant Colonel in the Indian Army.

‘The story shocked me—it would have scared anyone. I asked him to please be careful. I mean, I knew for sure that he was very good at what he did. I knew he planned everything very well. He was very meticulous by nature. He was professionally very sound. So I didn’t panic, but I did ask him to be careful.’