- Flying was his passion but preferred to join the Army
- For Col. Sharath Bhat, 31st October,1984 is an unforgettable Black Day as he was assigned duties to control the situation after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination
By Dr. Manik A.V. Bengeri
I am the proud son of my father late P.R. Bhat,” says Col. Sharath Bhat, who has served Indian Army for 24 years and settled in Mysuru since 2004. Though Col. Sharath Bhat basically belongs to Surathkal, Mangaluru, he was born in North India, educated in Delhi and then joined Indian Army, thus we can say that he belongs to India. It is true that all those who join the Army are only soldiers and their religion is their Motherland.
Col. Sharath Bhat’s father, late P.R. Bhat, served the British Indian Army much before India’s Independence. He had joined the British Indian Army in the year 1942. He was a Staff Captain in the Electrical & Mechanical Engineer (EME) corps and post-Independence shifted to Ministry of Defence. Though from Mangaluru, he had shifted to New Delhi. He served in New Delhi till his retirement in late seventies. After three daughters, one son was born to the couple on 3rd December, 1959, and he was named Sharath.
Since Sharath’s childhood, he was observing his father and was very much inspired. His goal was to make an attempt to join the armed forces after completing his studies. His early studies were from Kendriya Vidyalaya, Delhi and later completed his B.Com (Hons) and M.Com from Delhi University. During College days he was an NCC Air Wing Cadet and passionate about powered flying and held a Student Pilot Licence from Delhi Flying Club, a rarity in those days. NCC groomed him very well and he could have joined Indian Air Force after clearing Selection Board in Administrative stream but he preferred to join the Indian Army. Those were the days, when very few people from his family were inclined to join Army. But following the footsteps of his father, Sharath joined Officers’ Training Academy, Chennai, in the year 1981 and was commissioned in Artillery on 26th August,1982 as a Lieutenant and was posted to 210 Rocket Regiment, Anand Parbat, Delhi.
For him 31st October,1984 is an unforgettable Black Day as on that day India’s Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, was assassinated and he was assigned duties to control the situation. He has witnessed the riots, the havoc and the cries of people for help when their houses were burning and to rescue them was a very difficult as well as a big task. Taking affected people to safe areas and provide them medical aid etc., was touching the hearts of army men. At last, with lots of efforts they could establish law and order. They had to rush to Teen Murti Bhavan where the mortal remains of Indira Gandhi were kept.
He also recollects and admits that in Army they are trained to fight with the enemy but not trained to control emotionally charged huge crowd at that time. Col. Bhat sensed the need of more Army troops and arranged to ensure discipline. He says that though he had never seen late Mrs. Indira Gandhi during her lifetime he was present there to ensure her mortal remains got the deserved respect. He stated that for him personally the whole episode and the experience was a very humbling one and that also at the beginning of his service.
In the year 1986, he was posted to Dinjan, Tinsukia, Assam. During this posting he was part of ‘Operation Falcon’ as Chinese Army had entered Tawang Valley and the war situation could arise at any moment. He and his battalion had to move towards Kibitu, a place on Line of Control (LoC) for which they had to cross Brahmaputra River — carrying guns by helicopters with pilots navigating skilfully over the Lohit river at Kibitu village. The situation was alarming but it eased as both Governments decided to move back their soldiers. The same story was repeated in Galwan Valley in the year 2020. History repeats itself!
Immediately after his stint in Far East, in the year 1987, Col. Sharath Bhat was posted to Kargil and after six months of acclimatisation, his unit was moved to Siachen Glacier to provide fire support to the troops deployed on the glacier. This place is one of the most challenging battle fields in the world. This is a place where weather claims more lives than the bullets. The temperature dips to minus 50 degrees and strong winds are enough to kill the people within seconds. Col. Bhat was earmarked to go to “Bana Top” but was later directed to another post which was at the height of 17,500 ft. During his posting at this place he had to witness daily casualties due to frost bite and losing their hands / toes etc. Indeed unimaginable for a common person!
Post Kargil War, the entire LAC (Line of Actual Control) was active and in the year 2000, he was posted in Baramulla, Gulmarg and Uri in J&K, very sensitive areas where he participated in many limited battles to inflict damages to the enemy posts. He recollects that during this period his close friend Major Shafique Ghori, a local of Mysore who was posted in Rashtriya Rifles located at a place called Shopiyan, martyred in a fire fight with terrorists — the memories make him emotional. One can’t change the destiny is the real truth, but we all can remember the sacrifices made by such brave people, who have not cared for their own lives.
In the year 2002, Sharath Bhat was selected as an Instructor in Indian Military Academy, Dehradun. This is a prestigious assignment for any officer, as one helps mould the future of Indian Army. During this period he has groomed and trained many young cadets from college boys to fine soldiers. He had the opportunity to train Officer Cadets from Bhutan, Malaysia, Nepal and Palestine.
After this, he was posted as head of a unit at NCC Group HQ, Mysore, for a period of two years from 2004 to 2006. Mysore is such a beautiful place for settling down and Col. Sharath Bhat was not an exception in seeing the serene beauty of this city. After falling in love with his wife Bhagawati, this is his second love and he decided to settle down in Mysore. Presently, he continues to serve in Kaynes Technology as Senior Vice-President, Heading the Marketing and International Business. His two married sons are settled abroad and the couple are enjoying their life in Namma Mysuru.
It is interesting to note that he joined the Army following the footsteps of his father and left the Army to take care of his mother since he was the only son to her. Col. Bhat realised the need of the hour and bid adieu to his prestigious position in the Army to take care of his 84-year-old mother. The basic teachings of our Ancient Indian culture are at very high level, which tell us that ‘Namaatuh para daivatam’! The meaning is as clear as the sunlight which tells as that there is no bigger Gods compared to mother. Hence serving mother is equal to serve the God ! Col. Bhat followed the same principle and is leading a very contented life of having done his duties as an ideal son.
When the country is celebrating Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, let us salute Col. Bhat for his service in the Indian Army, our Nation, as well as to his mother.