By the time my letter reaches you all, I will be enjoying hospitality of the Apsaras! The story of Captain Vijayant Thapar’s ultimate sacrifice

It was a scorching summer day, A young boy had dragged his younger brother to Arun Khetarpal’s house in the heat. He stood there staring at the gate of 1971 war Marty’s house. His brother had a long list of complaints when their mother found them.

For a family whose four generations have served in the Army, Vijayant Thapar’s this act did not bring any surprise.

“That was all he wanted to do. I remember him sitting in our garden with my father, forcing him to tell stories about how the Pathans fired at the enemy” remembers his father.

When the other children would play video games, Vijayant Thapar would pretend play as an airforce pilot. When he would play with his younger brother, he would always make him a Pakistani and beat him up.

Capt Vijayant Thapar was born on 26 Dec 1976 in a military family to Colonel V N Thapar and Mrs Tripta Thapar. Having brought up in the army family Capt Thapar always wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father. He pursued his dream and worked hard to get selected in IMA Dehradun. He did exceedingly well in his training and was commissioned into 2 Rajputana Rifles on 12 Dec 1998.

“I named him after the Army battle tank Vijayant. It means victorious in the end. The motto of his unit, 2 Rajputana Rifles, was also Ever Victorious. It was a perfect fit,” says Colonel Thapar.

Capt Vijayant’s first unit 2 Rajputana Rifles was at Gwalior in 1998. He stayed there for a month before the unit moved to Kashmir to undertake anti-insurgency operations. Here Capt Vijyant was involved in two fierce encounters. While talking to his mother on the telephone he described how he lived through a live encounter in which about thirty bullets were fired at him.

In 1999, 6-year-old Ruksana, who lives in the Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir, saw her father being murdered by militants, and out of shock, she lost her ability to speak.

In the same year that Captain Vijayant Thapar, a 22-year old Indian Army officer, was posted in the district, with a battalion of the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles.

When Captain Thapar heard about Ruksana’s plight, he began to make daily visits to her school. Accompanied by his helper, Sepoy Jagmal Singh, he would bring along sweets and chocolates and talk to the child. The two slowly formed a bond, and he even took Ruksana to see a doctor.

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Thanks to the kind efforts of Captain Thapar, Ruksana slowly started recovering from the trauma of her father’s death and started speaking again.

Unfortunately, in June, that year, another tragedy was about to hit Ruksana. Capt’s unit was tasked to move to Drass in Kargil sector to undertake operations against Pak forces who had occupied Tololing, Tiger Hill, and adjoining heights.

Battle of Tololing, Knoll and Three Pimples: June 1999

On 11 June 1999, Capt Vijayant’s battalion under the command of Col M.B. Ravindernath, was tasked to capture the  Tololing. After the initial assault by Major Mohit Saxena was held up, on the night of 12th June’99, Capt Vijayant Thapar led his platoon to capture a Pakistani position called Barbad Bunker. Tololing was the first victory for Indian army on 13th June 1999 and was the turning point in the war.

Later on 28 June, 2 Rajasthan Rifles were given the task of capturing Three Pimples, Knoll and Lone Hill area. The attack started with Capt Vijayant’s platoon leading on a full moon night along a razor sharp ridge with no cover to offer.

At 8 PM the attack commenced when 120 guns opened fire. In this heavy exchange of fire 2 Raj Rif moved with Capt  Vijayant Thapar leading the attack. Among the first to fall in this battle was Sep Jagmal Singh, Capt  Vijayant’s very dear friend. Finally, Capt Vijayant’s company secured a foothold on Knoll.

By this time his company commander Major P Acharya had been killed.  Enraged at this news, Capt  Vijayant surged ahead with his comrade Naik Tilak Singh. Both of them started engaging the enemy merely 15 meters away. There were three enemy machine guns firing towards them. After about an hour and a half of fierce exchange of fire Capt  Vijayant realized that the enemy machine guns had to be silenced to continue their advance towards their objective.

The ridge beyond Knoll was very narrow and sharp and only 2 or 3 soldiers could walk side by side. The danger of getting killed here was very real and therefore Capt Vijayant decided to go ahead himself with Naik Tilak Singh. Capt  Vijayant in a daring move surged ahead to do that but was hit by a burst of fire that struck him on his head. He fell in the arms of his comrade Naik Tilak Singh. Capt  Vijayant was martyred but motivated by his daredevilry and leadership, his troops later charged at the enemy and fully captured Knoll.

The victory at Knoll on 29 June 1999, is a saga of unmatched bravery, grit and determination. Capt Vijayant Thapar was awarded, “Vir Chakra” for his gallantry, unyielding fighting spirit and supreme sacrifice.

In the letter that 22 year old Captain Thapar wrote to his family before the Tololing assault, he passionately declared that if he were to be reincarnated as a human, he would join the Army and fight for the nation again. He also urged his family to donate his organs, and continue to take care of Ruksana.

In fact, Colonel Thapar had met Ruksana and her mother in 2015 and was happy to see that she was going to school regularly.

Colonel Thapar has made several visits to the spot where his son sacrificed his life for the nation. Because his son had asked him to come and see the place from where Indian Army fought to secure the future of the country. While he deeply misses him, he is also proud of his sacrifice.

For the rest of us,

It is an honour to be born on the same land where brave men like Captain Vijayant Thapar were born. We are safe only because of the supreme sacrifice of our bravehearts. We shall forever be indebted to them. Jai hind.

Dr Sindhu Prashanth