In an unfortunate turn of events, four Army personnel, including the commanding officer of the Rashtriya Rifles' 21 Battalion, and a sub-inspector of police were killed in action in a terrorist operation in Jammu and Kashmir's Handwara. 

Following which, India has once again asked Pakistan to immediately vacate all areas of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh under its illegal occupation. The reiteration of India's statement comes a day after Pakistan-backed terrorists killed five Indian security personnel in a terror attack in Handwara, Kashmir.

Soldiers of the Indian Army

The encounter that took place under bad weather on Saturday, Indian Army's Decorated officer Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, Major Anuj Sood, Naik Rajesh Kumar and Lance Naik Dinesh from the 21 Rashtriya Rifles. Police officer Shakeel Ahmad Qazi also made the supreme sacrifice in the operation.

Official statement by MEA

A Ministry of External Affairs statement said that India demarches senior Pakistan diplomat and lodged a strong protest against the Supreme Court of Pakistan's order on Gilgit-Baltistan, a part of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir, under occupation since 1947.

In order in January, Pakistan's apex court had said that Gilgit-Baltistan comes within its domain after the Imran Khan government took a series of steps to constitutionally strengthen its hold on to the region last year. Islamabad tightened its grip on Gilgit-Baltistan in view of the passage of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) through the region.

Indian Army
Clockwise: Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, Major Anuj Sood, Naik Rajesh Kumar, Lance Naik Dinesh from the 21 Rashtriya Rifles and SI Shakeel Ahmad Qazi J&K PoliceCredit:Twitter

On Monday, the government in New Delhi said that it has conveyed to Islamabad that "such actions can neither hide the illegal occupation of parts of Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh by Pakistan nor the grave human rights violations, exploitation and denial of freedom to the people residing in Pakistan occupied territories for the past seven decades". The government has conveyed to Pakistan that India's position in the matter, "is reflected in the resolution passed by Parliament in 1994 by consensus".

The resolution has unanimously declared that the entire Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, including the areas of Gilgit and Baltistan, are an integral part of India by virtue of its fully legal and irrevocable accession. The Ministry said: "The government of Pakistan or its judiciary has no locus standi on territories illegally and forcibly occupied by it. India completely rejects such actions and continued attempts to bring material changes in Pakistan occupied areas of the Indian territory of Jammu & Kashmir."

Last week, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) slammed the Imran Khan-led government for continuing with the policy of subjugation of the Gilgit Baltistan region. In a searing commentary, the commission recalled that the Gilgit Baltistan's province-like status granted in 2009 as per the Empowerment and Self-Governance Order was nullified by an order in 2018, withdrawing whatever "negligible powers" that had been delegated to the region in 2009.

Lamenting the disenfranchisement of people in Gilgit Baltistan, the HRCP said the 2018 order annulled the Gilgit Baltistan Council which had local representation and gave too many powers to the country's Prime Minister.

Colonel Ashutosh Sharma: A commanding officer who led from the front

Handwara martyrs
Handwara martyrsTwitter

Colonel Ashutosh Sharma who was also the commanding officer of 21 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) led the raiding party as he had been leading his troops since the day joined the Army. He was decorated with Sena medal not once but twice. He maintained the highest tradition of the Indian Army of 'Service before self'. Notably, 21 RR has lost its commanding officer twice in the last 20 years. In August 2000, the then CO Col RS Chauhan and Sector Commander Brig BS Shergill died in a blast while travelling in a vehicle.

Col. Sharma leaves behind his wife, child and mother. His wife Pallavi Ashutosh as brave as his husband said, "Remember him, not as a loss, but for the passion of his duty. He had told me, mujhe unit sambhalna hai, tum ghar badiya sambhal logi." She further adds, ''He used to say, I will kill the terrorists and come back home the next day. He is keeping his promise. He will come home tomorrow but wrapped in a tricolour.''

Major Anuj Sood: A scholar soldier

Major Anuj Sood who was the part of the operation came from a military background. After graduating from the National Defence Academy excelling in the academic curriculum, he was commissioned into The Brigade of The Guards. His father, Brigadier Chandrakant Sood (Rtd.) also served in the Army. On his supreme sacrifice, Brigadier Chandrakant said, "He has made a supreme sacrifice. It was part of his duty what he was trained for. I feel sad for his wife as they just got married 3-4 months back. He was meant to save lives." The entire nation is indebted to the supreme sacrifice made by five of its finest men.