Handwara was a militancy ravaged place and the terror giants had turned into an eerie and a scary place but then in walked the warriors on a mission and suddenly for the people the things were looking up!
The testimony to the fact is that a school was built by the Army also known as Good will Public schools because education was a must and this was one way that the children could be put on the right track from their formative childhood onwards. The message caught on and the school instantly became a blockbuster as far Handwara went and this one is situated in Budkot, a beautiful place in the legendary township.
The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept, everything they are offered. This is the change that this school brought about in Handwara.
Mission Education to get Handwara back on the rails was not an easy one. The army knew that the future generations of Kashmir cannot be allowed to waste so against all the odds they went in for an education drive. It was slow to pick for obvious reasons but now it is roaring.
Education is what survives when what has been learnt has been forgotten. The Kashmiris always had this fact at the back of their minds. There have been several literary giants that have risen like phoenix from Kashmir. But it had to be the younger kids who had to get into this circuit. Their parents knew that plenty had been lost so it was time to make progress into the future. Education suddenly had become a necessity and thus came up the Goodwill school at Budkot! A brilliant idea that became a legend as Lt. Col Ashutosh became one.
‘If You are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people. In insurgencies education is one thing that suffers because the children suffer in a hopeless situation. There are many ways you can make an impact . And there is no greater impact that you can make than spreading education, and empowering people who’ll empower and teach people, who, in turn, will empower and teach more! The Army knew this and the word has spread like a legendary fable.
If The Chinar corps (15 corps) decided to rename the Budkot school as Col. Ashutosh Sharma Public School then it could not have been without a reason. There had to be one and there was a big one. We will tell you why but before that a small little incident about a girl with a running nose:
That day there was a seminar in Govt Degree College Baramulla. I was a beginner in the field of journalism in 2003 could be four also. I could be below or above average but I got involved as a freelance contributor in Jammu for local newspapers and magazines because I considered that writing is fun because you could spill out on paper what you had in your heart while writing on a particular topic. It was not easy but it was not difficult either. So it was from the side of Jammu and Kashmir Reporter (a magazine) that I was invited and suddenly told to sit on the stage and reply to questions that the anchor of the show was asking. The gentry on the curved table was huge, Shujaat Bukhari, Basheer Manzar. Majid Jehangir along with many others there and I was a novice (at times big names but they dwarf a new man). I knew the blunt art of speaking but not the other one. I still remember GOC 8 Div was sitting there along with a great gentry. The anchor threw up a question at me? What do you think about Kashmir? The answer had to be prompt and suddenly I said, I’m sitting in an educational institution and I think education remains the best possible answer and why waste the brain that is of colossal importance to our existence on other things because the hunt of knowledge never suffices. I did not know what I had answered but I was not asked the next one. As we were moving for lunch I saw a girl wanting to talk to me. She was covering up her nose with a white handkerchief. I thought it must be the flu and a flowing nose. But when she said this I did get a knock, ’I’m not good at studies but I want to make it to the top. Though I reached college, I know how. I did not deserve it but I somehow made it with low marks. But now I want to steam but how’? I did not have any answer? I stood mum and then said in a rather subdued manner, what is your subject of interest, the answer was ‘education of the children’. That was my wife’s subject too back in Jammu I thought. Then she removed her handkerchief while writing her address because I told her that a surprise would reach her within a week or ten days. I walked off, the books reached her and they are doing so now also but we never met again, yet we suddenly did when she had become an educationist’!
Col Ashutosh Sharma hailed from Parwana village in Bulandshahar district of Uttar Pradesh. Son of Shri Shambhu Dutt Pathak and Smt Sudha Sharma, he was born on 03 July 1975. He completed his schooling and graduation in Bulandshahar and attended the DAV Inter College. He was fascinated by Army life since his younger days and always dreamt of donning the Army uniform. Eventually, his dream came true when he got selected to join the Army through Combined Defence Services Examination. He was commissioned on 01 Sep 2001, into 19 Guards of the Brigade of Guards, an infantry Regiment known for its intrepid soldiers and numerous battle exploits. Col Ashutosh Sharma hailed from Parwana village in Bulandshahar district of Uttar Pradesh. Son of Shri Shambhu Dutt Pathak and Smt Sudha Sharma, he was born on 03 July 1975. He completed his schooling and graduation in Bulandshahar and attended the DAV Inter College. He was fascinated by Army life since his younger days and always dreamt of donning the Army uniform. Eventually, his dream came true when he got selected to join the Army through Combined Defence Services Examination. He was commissioned on 01 Sep 2001, into 19 Guards of the Brigade of Guards, an infantry Regiment known for its intrepid soldiers and numerous battle exploits.
After completing his training he served in various operational areas and gathered substantial field experience. He soon developed into a tough and gritty office who led from the front and proved his mettle as a soldier on many occasions. For his act of bravery, he was awarded the Sena Medal for gallantry on 26 January 2018. In the following year in 2019, he shot, at close range, a terrorist who was rushing towards his men with a hidden grenade. He saved the lives of his men as well as personnel of the J&K Police. For this action, on 15 August 2019, when serving as the Commanding Officer of the 21st battalion, Rashtriya Rifles, he was awarded the bar to Sena Medal. By 2020, Col Ashutosh Sharma had been awarded, Sena Medal two times for his commendable courage, gallantry, leadership, and devotion to duty, indeed a rare honour for any Army officer.
During 2020, Col Ashutosh Sharma was serving with 21 RR battalion deployed in J&K. He was functioning as the Commanding Officer of the battalion which was engaged in counter-insurgency operations in its area of operation(AOR). As a number of militants were active in its AOR, the unit troops had to maintain a very high state of preparedness at all times and had to undertake operations at a short notice. Based on the information from the intelligence sources, about the presence of some hardcore militants in Wadarbala-Rajwara forests in Kupwara district, the security forces decided to launch a joint combing operation on 01 May 2020, comprising the elements of Army, CRPF and J&K Police. As planned the joint task force launched the operation on the morning of 01 May 2020, wherein the Army team comprised 21 RR troops led by Col Ashutosh Sharma. Besides the CO himself, the 21 RR team included the Company Commander Maj Anuj Sood, Naik Rajesh Kumar, Lance Naik Dinesh Singh, and few more soldiers. As the team led by Col Ashutosh was returning from the massive combing operation in Wadarbala-Rajwara forests on 02 May 2020, it received inputs that 2-4 terrorists had taken refuge in a house in the nearby Chanjimulla hamlet. As per the information received, the terrorists clad in combat uniform had taken few civilians hostage in one of the houses. Col Ashutosh and his team immediately reached the site and swung into action. The terrorists were found to be hiding in two adjacent houses who fired at the troops on being challenged. A fierce gun-battle ensued thereafter lasting for several hours. During the drawn-out battle, Col Ashutosh and his men managed to eliminate two terrorists and also succeeded in extricating a number of civilians. However, during the heavy exchange of fire Col Ashutosh Sharma, Maj Anuj Sood, Naik Rajesh Kumar, and Lance Naik Dinesh Singh got severely injured. They later succumbed to their injuries and were martyred. Col Ashutosh Sharma was a valiant soldier and a fine officer, who led from the front like a true Commanding Officer and laid down his life in the line of his duty. Col Ashutosh Sharma was given the gallantry award, Sena Medal, on 26 Jan 2021 for his outstanding courage, leadership and supreme sacrifice. This was the third time
He is no more but his name remains as the examples he set as an officer who led his men with utmost bravery and chivalry. Rechristening the school after his name is a great gesture by the Chinar corps. The man is no more but that name of the school will survive.
Names do since education is one thing that makes you remember as that day a girl doing Mass communication in Degree College Baramulla told me, My ambition is to become a teacher in Handwara, but then in this busy life one tends to lose some great friends momentarily. And when they come back it’s absolutely a different feeling altogether. The kid pursued education and made it big for herself but she still has the running nose but as buck teeth are for some girl kids this may be a trademark of intellectual beauty. She is married but the nose keeps flowing but her kids are great and they are very good at studies. Courtesy now Ashutosh Memorial school. The Army has done a stupendous job and Handwara has moved miles ahead! On the educational grid no one jk will ever say that he/she passed with low marks! Trust me they would never ever!