‘If I’m born again, I will still join the Army’
On the 19th anniversary of Kargil Vijay Diwas, we pay tribute to Capt Vijyant Thapar of 2 Raj Rif who laid down his life while capturing Knoll during the Battle of Three Pimples and for his brave deeds was awarded the Vir Chakra. Just remember, he was 22 when he got martyred
It was on a cold December evening that I first met Col VN Thapar and his wife, Mrs Tripta Thapar, at their Sector 29 residence in Noida. The Thapar home, I found out, had photographs, big and small, of their martyred son, Capt Vijyant Thapar, in Army uniform and on the peaks of Kargil. If my memory serves me right, it was the year 2000. We, my wife and I, were calling on Col Thapar as he had to share with us the news of filmmaker JP Dutta making a movie on Kargil. “Robin (Vijyant’s pet name) would once again come alive though only on the silver screen,” I remember him telling us as he tried to control the tears welling up in his eyes lest his wife sees them and gets emotional too.
Not only did we get a great story for our respective newspapers, we were also treated to hot, piping samosas and tea by Tripta ma’am. “You must be hungry as you are returning from work and it will be a while before you reach home,” she had told us with loads of warmth and motherly affection.
While I worked in the features section of a national daily, my wife was reporting for Noida for another one. After the war had ended, the newspaper she worked with had run a series on Kargil martyrs from in and around Delhi-NCR and this was how she had met this immensely loving and warm-hearted couple. The connect still remains.
Apart from discussing how JP Dutta had approached him and how actor Amar Upadhyay was chosen to play Robin, Col Thapar also recalled once again how brave his son was and how he laid down his life for the nation. “Vijyant had a strong patriotic streak. He always wanted to be in the Army. In fact, his favourite toy was a gun. As a kid, he would also make collages of Army men and fighter planes. And it was after joining the IMA that he really blossomed,” shared Col Thapar who belongs to an Army family (his great grandfather, grandfather and father had all served the Army during their professional lives); Vijyant had carried forward the legacy.
“I don’t regret his joining the Army but my only regret is that we couldn’t spend time with him,” I remember Tripta ma’am telling us. She added, “He was supposed to come home in April 1999 but postponed his leave to May 26. But on May 23 came the order that all leaves had been cancelled,” she recalls.
“When they captured Tololing, he was thrilled to the core and showed no signs of fear,” recalled Tripta. In fact, he had called up his mother on a V Sat phone and proudly said, “We have captured Tololing.” The two dangerous encounters he had in Kupwara earlier had taken his fear away.
A deeply religious boy, Vijyant would meditate every morning and was a staunch devotee of Lord Hanuman. His room in Noida’s Sector 29 home is full of pictures of gods and goddesses. Strangely enough, before going to the IMA, he had turned pure vegetarian. Today, his father has also. “Somehow I don’t like eating non-veg now,” says Col Thapar.
Recalling another incident, Col Thapar adds, “On a visit home, Robin told us about this six-year-old girl, Rukhsana, who had lost her speech after her father was brutally murdered by militants in front of her eyes in her village in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir. Rukhsana’s world had come crashing down but she was soon to discover her knight in shining armour when a company of 2 Rajputana Rifles moved into her school in Kandi village. Robin met her through the school principal and started loving the kid. In fact, he and his Sepoy Jagmal Singh Shekhawat, who was also martyred in the battle at Kargil, used to steal away from the unit and visit Rukhsana each evening and take sweets and toffees for her. Over time, Robin’s persistent efforts paid off and Rukhsana started speaking again. He used to contribute a small amount of money each month to the girl’s poor family towards her education. Minutes before going on his ‘last’ operation, Vijyant, probably on a premonition, wrote to his family and asked them to take care of her. ‘Contribute some money to an orphanage and keep sending some money to Rukhsana every month,’ he had written minutes before leading his men into battle on that fateful night of June 28. He had told his mother about Ruksana on phone and described his beautiful relationship. We now send money to her regularly.”
As the nation observes the 19th anniversary of Kargil Vijay Diwas, Col Thapar and Tripta ma’am sit in their living room amid the memories of their beloved son who laid down his life for his Motherland.
Capt Vijyant Thapar’s last letter which he penned before the final assault. He left this letter to be handed over to his family in case he failed to return.