Lt Colonel Onkar Singh Dikhit (Retd) of the 11 Gurkha Regiment, who turned 95 on Tuesday, was a busy man for the whole day meeting friends, relatives and well wishers who had turned up to wish him happy birthday. “I am sure I will touch a century,” said a beaming Dikhit when a family friend wished him.
“The senior-most veteran in Indore district, Colonel Dikhit is a much respected and loved figure in Mhow,” says Colonel Rakesh Virmani who is heading the Zila Sainik Welfare Office, Indore.
Born in Indore in 1921, Dikhit was commissioned in the First Indore Infantry (State Forces) in 1942 after undergoing cadet training at Officers Training School, Bangalore. His father Lt Col Mangal Singh Dikhit had commanded this battalion.
During World War II, Dikhit served in eastern India with the 6th Battalion of the Sikh Regiment and in Persia, Iraq and Palestine with first Indore Infantry as part of PAIForce (Persia and Iraq Force). After independence, his battalion was transferred to the Indian Army and was renamed the 15th Battalion of the Kumaon Regiment. Dikhit, who served in Jammu and Kashmir during the 1948 Indo-Pak conflict, was given a permanent commission in the Indian Army in 1951 where he served with the first and 11th Gurkha Rifles.
In 1963, Dikhit had the rare honour of raising the second battalion called 11 Gurkha Rifles. He gave it its battle cry “Jaimahakali Ayo Gurkhali” which later became the regimental battle cry. “As an officer commissioned in the state forces, it had been my ambition to command a battalion of the Indian Army, if possible a Gurkha battalion. I was lucky to get what I wanted. I was also honoured to have raised the 61st Mountain Brigade. I commanded it for the first six months after its birth,” he said.
This brigade was later commanded by Brig RZ Kabraji who had earlier commanded the School of Signals Mhow (Today it is called Military College of Telecommunication Engineering). Dikhit’s battalon 2/11 Gurkha Rifles was involved in counter insurgency operations when the Mizo insurgency broke out in 1966.
Dikhit also has fond memories of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw under whom he served in the Infantry School Mhow in the 1950s. His younger brother Major Ajit Singh Dikhit was killed by rebels in Congo during a UN Peace Keeping operation in 1961.
Immediately after the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war, Dikhit served at a war camp where thousands of Pakistanis were imprisoned. After retirement, he shifted to Nigeria where he and his wife worked as school teachers for ten years. He lost his wife in Nigeria and has been living in Mhow since 1990. His three daughters are settled abroad.