29 June 1999 - On a sunny afternoon in Noida, more than a lakh people had gathered to pay their last respects to Lt. Vijyant Thapar, whose body was flown in by the Indian Airlines earlier that day. Col Virendra Thapar, Vijyant’s father, was a third-generation military man in the family. ‘Robin’ as he was affectionately called, Lt. Vijyant Thapar, led a company platoon of the 2 Rajputana Rifles that fought in the Battle of Knoll, Three Pimples and Lone Hill during the Kargil War in 1999. A story of a braveheart is revisited by Neha Dwivedi and Col Thapar in ‘Vijyant at Kargil: The Life of a Kargil Hero’.
Bengaluru: Tears rolling down her cheeks, Tripta Thapar recalls how her son Vijyant would be with her today had he not been selected in the first attempt of clearing the Combined Defence Services (CDS) examination. A fourth-generation military man from the Thapar family, Vijyant had joined the ‘Ever-Victorious’ 2 Rajputana Rifles in 1998 and had been posted in the valley for a year before being called in to fight for the country during the Kargil War. He played a very important role in securing a victory for the armed forces in the Battle of Knoll, Three Pimples and Lone Hill in Drass. He lost his life at the age of 22 during the battle and has been awarded the Vir Chakra posthumously. Every year, his mother prepares kheer on his birth anniversary and his father makes it a point to visit Knoll. Just three days before he died, Col Thapar penned a demi-official letter to his son, advising him to be careful and responsible. By the time the letter reached him, it was too late. Co-authored by Col VN Thapar and Neha Dwivedi, the biography explores the unseen side of Captain Vijyant Thapar, beginning from his early years to his death on the battlefield.
The Fauji Brat
The first part of the book largely describes Vijyant’s childhood days as he travelled across the country because of Virender’s postings. The family had to move around quite frequently and have lived in different parts of India such as Shimla, Pathankot, Tuensang, Barrackpore, Mhow, Noida among other places. The name ‘Vijyant’ is also inspired by India’s first indigenously built battle tanks called ‘Vijayanta’. It stands for ‘victory in the end’. The section where Vijyant spends his time in Nagaland is particularly enjoyable for a reader to skim through. It begins with the description of the cemetery from WWII that reads “When you go home, tell them of us and say- for your tomorrow, we gave our today.” The cemetery can still be found on the Imphal-Dimapur Road.
From uttering his first words (which was not ‘mama’ or ‘papa’) to waving at the skies for low-flying Dakotas, his early years seemed to instil a sense of confidence in his parents about his future. Vijyant would soon be called ‘Robin’ at home and his brother would acquire ‘Birdie’ (has to do with both- golf and ornithology). Early on, he was inspired by the stories that his grandfather would tell him. Some of the favourites were from the 1965 and 1971 wars. Growing up, Robin enjoyed watching Tom Cruise’s movies. Top Gun was his favorite. The uniform, aviator glasses are said to have influenced him heavily.
Veer Bhogye Vasundhara
As a kid, Robin would share his feelings about death with some of his close ones. He was not scared, but merely philosophical about its imminence. Even though Robin had a short life, he lived it to the fullest. He was always outspoken and took part in almost everything- from treks to swimming sessions. Robin was deeply religious and always would thank the Gods for blessing him with everything that he has. This can be seen at different intervals of the book. Coincidentally, the battle cry of his battalion, the Rajputana Rifles is ‘Raja Ram Chander ki Jai’ and the presiding deity is Karni Mata. In Drass, he would wake up early and play ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ on his Walkman and get started with his routine. Before his platoon went to battle, he made sure that everyone offered their prayers to Karni Mata.
Tololing was held by Pakistan Army’s 6 Northern Light Infantry (NLI) and had elements of the Special Service Group (SSG). It was not an easy task that the Indian Army faced. As a part of Operation Badr, the Pakistanis made an incursion into the Indian territory by 127 kilometres. This is where the 2 Rajputana Rifles and Captain Vijyant would make history.
Man of Letters
The exchange of letters between Robin and his family is well documented throughout the book. The letters frequented his family, friends, and loved ones. In one such letter that he wrote before he left for the Battle of Knoll, he asked his family to look after Ruksana, a girl who he met while he was posted in Kupwara. Ruksana’s father had been killed by terrorists in front of her eyes, leaving her in a state of shock. Robin, with his conversations over weeks, made sure Ruksana had a smile on her face. The final set of letters exchanged between Robin and his family will put anyone reading them in tears. His valour, sacrifice, and love for India stand tall as an example for generations to come.
The first half of the book is focused on his childhood and college days, and if I had to suggest a friendly amendment, it could have received a little contraction. The writing is kept quite simple without any jargon that might leave a non-habitual reader running after the glossary. The final three chapters are really gripping. One can only imagine how difficult it must have been for the family to put their experience into words. It’s not an easy task to describe your own son’s death. This book does not appeal to any niche audiences but makes it an easy read for anyone who’s interested to know more about the sacrifices that our men in uniform make for our wellbeing and safety. While there are a set of comedians mocking those guarding our borders along the Line of Control, here’s a journey of a 22-year-old officer of the Indian Army who won us a decisive battle. I wish more such literature is out in the market for our younger audiences to read. The victory is not as celebrated as the first one at Tololing or last at Tiger Hill. This book throws light on the strategic importance of the victory at Knoll and highlights the life of India’s proud son, Captain Vijyant Thapar.
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Last Updated May 27, 2020, 8:05 PM IST