Vijayant Thapar (1976-1999) was an Indian Army officer who participated in the 1999 Indo-Pakistan War, which is also known as the Kargil War. Thapar was killed in action during the Battle of Tololing while leading an assault on the enemies to recapture Knoll, a mountainous feature in Kargil, on 29 June 1999. He received the Vir Chakra, India’s third-highest gallantry award during wartime, for his bravery posthumously.
Vijayant Thapar was born on Sunday, 26 December 1976 (age 22 years; at the time of death) in Naya Nangal, Punjab, India. His zodiac sign is Capricorn. Vijayant spent his childhood in different parts of India since his father was in the army. He did his schooling at St. Mary’s Academy in Meerut, St Joseph’s Academy, Army Public School, and Dayanand Anglo-Vedic (DAV) College, Chandigarh, where he completed his schooling.
After schooling, he did his graduation in commerce at Sri Guru Nanak Dev Khalsa College in New Delhi. Vijayant’s desire to join the Indian Army arose when he was a kid. According to his parents, he used to get motivated by watching tanks and soldiers parade and roam around the military cantonments with weapons. After completing his formal education, Vijayant took and cleared the Combined Defence Services Examination (CDSE) and joined the Indian Military Academy (IMA) in Dehradun in 1997. Reportedly, he went against his parents’ wishes to join the armed forces. In an interview, his mother talked about it and said,
He was bent to get into the Indian Army and went against our decision. He always said No.. It is the Indian Army that I shall join, or I shall not work anywhere else. So Col Thapar (his father) gave him an ultimatum that if he gets selected in the army on the first attempt, he can join it. However, there was to be no second chance.”
At IMA, he performed exceptionally well in the training and was even awarded a silver star at the end of the first term of training.
He was among the few under-training officers, known as Gentlemen Cadets (GC), who completed parachute jumps before joining the army and was given the academy appointment of a corporal.
Height (approx.): 5′ 9″
Weight (approx.): 60 kg
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Dark Brown
Vijayant Thapar belongs to a family that has served in the Indian Army for many generations.
Parents & Siblings
His father, Colonel (retired) Virender Thapar, served in the Indian Army. His mother’s name is Tripta Thapar. His younger brother, Vijender Thapar, works in the corporate sector.
Wife & Children
Vijayant Thapar was unmarried and had no kids.
His great-grandfather, Karta Ram Thapar, served in the British Indian Army as a captain. He took part in many campaigns.
His grandfather, J. S. Thapar, served for 15 years in the Indian Army.
Vijayant Thapar was reportedly in a relationship with a girl. In a letter written to his family in June 1999, Vijayant talked about this girl and also asked his mother Tripta if she could visit her.
He followed Hinduism and was an ardent devotee of Karni Mata and Lord Rama.
Early Military Career
Vijayant Thapar completed his military training on 12 December 1998 and was commissioned into the Army Service Corps (ASC) as a lieutenant. However, he was transferred to the 2nd Battalion of the Rajputana Rifles to serve an attachment tenure. Soon after commissioning, Thapar was ordered to report to his unit in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. Having stayed there for a month, the unit was deployed at Kigam, Kupwara district, Jammu and Kashmir. His unit was tasked with battling insurgency in Kashmir, which was at its highest in the late 1990s.
There, he was involved in many counterinsurgency operations. His father once recalled an incident when Vijayant told him that a militant once fired thirty rounds of ammunition from his AK-47 on Vijayant. After serving in Kashmir for some time, Thapar was asked to report at the Infantry School in Mhow. There, he underwent several basic military courses following which he was sent to Belgaum in Karnataka, where he attended advanced military courses.
The Kargil War
In May 1999, when news began spreading that the Pakistani forces had occupied some of the peaks in the Kargil sector of Ladakh, Thapar and his battalion were tasked to move to the area to battle with the enemy and recapture the peaks.
On 11 June 1999, Thapar’s unit was given the task of capturing the strategically important Tololing. The initial assault on Tololing was led by Major Mohit Saxena; however, the attack did not succeed. Thereafter, Thapar took command of a platoon of Alpha “A” Company and assaulted the enemy location known as Barbaad Bunker on Tololing. During the firefight, he managed to eliminate two Pakistani soldiers and captured a lot of weapons and other war-like stores. The peak was successfully captured by the Rajputana Rifles on 13 June 1999, making it the first major victory for the Indian Army since the beginning of the war.
Later, his unit was given the next task of freeing the Three Pimples, Knoll, and Lone Hill area from the control of the Pakistan Army. Out of the three areas, his Alpha Company was given the task of assaulting the Pakistani troops at Knoll. On the night of 28 June 1999, Thapar led a platoon to capture the Pakistani positions; however, the mission received a setback after his company commander Major P. Acharya was killed in the battle. Despite the loss of his company commander, Thapar continued with the mission and engaged the Pakistani troops at a close range. While climbing up the top, he realised that three enemy machine gun posts had covered the area well and if the bunkers were not destroyed, Indian troops would have a difficult time capturing Knoll. Thapar manoeuvred across the open area; however, while doing so, he was hit with a burst of fire on his head leading to his death. At the time of his death, he was a Captain.
Military Decorations & Legacy
- For showcasing bravery during the 1999 Kargil War, Captain Vijayant Thapar was awarded India’s third-highest wartime gallantry award, Vir Chakra, posthumously. The award was presented by the President of India K. R. Narayanan to his grandmother.
- In his honour, the Indian Army constructed a helicopter base at Dras in Kargil. The base was inaugurated on 26 December 2003.
- The Government of Uttar Pradesh named a road, Captain Vijayant Thapar Marg, in Noida after he passed away.
Vijayant Thapar was killed in action in the early morning of 29 June 1999 after a bullet struck him on his forehead while he was leading his fellow soldiers to capture the Knoll feature in Kargil. He was cremated in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, with full military honours. While giving an interview, his father talked about receiving the news of his death and said,
I was in Alwar then. I was hoping he was only wounded, but the worst had happened… I retired that year too. It’s been a long time since his passing, but the family has been holding on to his memory firmly.”
- His friends and family members affectionately referred to him as Robin.
- His name is also spelt as Vijyant.
- In an interview, Vijayant’s parents revealed that they named him after a main battle tank used by India. His father, in an interview, said,
I named him after the Army main 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.”
- He was very fond of listening to music and loved listening to the songs of the 1997 film Border.
- He fired a weapon, a pistol, for the first time when he was a child.
- As a child, he used to visit the battalion of his father and observe the soldiers training in various sports such as boxing and wrestling. This led him to develop an interest in sports. Thapar, while training at IMA, had won many accolades in sports such as swimming and water polo.
- Had Vijayant Thapar not joined the Indian Army, he would have joined the Indian Air Force.
- His favourite quote was “Live Life King Size,” which he used to write at the end of his letters to his parents.
- In an interview, Vijayant’s father said that he had to change the nickname of Vijayant’s younger brother from Sparrow to Birdie after a little Sparrow chick fell and died from the ceiling of the verandah. He said,
Our family has been very fond of birds. I nicknamed Vijayant, ‘Robin’, and my other son, Vijender, as ‘Sparrow’. However, one day while I was posted at Mhow, a sparrow chick fell down dead. Vijayant asked me to change his sibling’s nickname as he felt that a sparrow was not a very good looking bird. I changed my other son, Vijender’s nickname to ‘Birdie’ at Robin’s behest.”
- Vijayant Thapar followed a Puritan lifestyle and did not drink alcohol, smoke tobacco, or consume non-vegetarian food.
- Before joining the Indian Army, Thapar did bodybuilding.
- He was a trained horserider.
- After he was killed in action in 1999, the then Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Ved Prakash Malik, wrote a letter to his parents.
- In the 2003 Bollywood film LOC: Kargil, actor Amar Upadhyay essayed Captain Vijayant Thapar’s character.
- When Vijayant was posted in Kupwara, Kashmir, he formed a special bond with a small girl named Ruksana who had lost her ability to speak as she was traumatized after her father was murdered by the militants in front of her. Vijayant not only helped her and her family by providing ration but also used to give Rs. 50 every month to her family to support them monetarily. In a letter written by Vijayant to his family before attacking Knoll, he asked his parents to continue giving Rs. 50 to Ruksana in case anything happened to him during the battle. His mother talked about Ruksana and Vijayant’s relationship, in an interview, and said,
In one of his last phone calls, he told me to get a few suits stitched for Ruksana, and that he would take it with him when he comes on leave… But he never came.”
- Vijayant had a sweet tooth, and his favourite dish was Kheer. Ever since his death, his mother prepares Kheer for him on his birthday. He also had a fondness for chocolates.
- Before his final battle, Vijayant penned a heartfelt letter to his family members. The letter was received by the family after his death.
- He was known for maintaining a journal in which he not only wrote his monthly to-do tasks but also a bucket list. In the journal, he mentioned that he wished to adopt a child and pay for its expenses. He also expressed his desire to donate his eyes and other organs after his death.
- Thapar’s regiment constructed a temple in his memory at the place where he was killed in action.
- In 2020, Vijayant Thapar’s father co-authored a biography on Vijayant titled Vijyant at Kargil: The Biography of a War Hero.
- Viajayant’s father visits Knoll, where he died, every year to pay his respects to his fallen son.
- In July 2023, the DLF Mall in Noida showcased Captain Thapar’s uniform in a glass showcase for visitors.
- In August 2023, two National Cadet Corps (NCC) students, Krishnan A, and Peddi Sai Kaushik, cycled more than 3,500 kilometres to pay their respects to the Kargil War martyrs. According to them, the duo were motivated to visit the battleground after they read about Captain Vijayant Thapar.
- In November 2023, Vijayant’s parents were invited to the singing reality TV show Indian Idol.