Wednesday, May 25th, 2022 03:34:11

India’s Unsung Hero

By Deepak  Rikhye
Updated: August 29, 2020 1:45 pm

When Albert Einstein published his fascinating Theory of Special Relativity, in 1905, he highlighted the relation between Space-Time. He explained that in the space around you one can  do anything; even travel to the moon and return. But time is different because it has restrictions. Time he articulated can never come back. Whatever is done now during this minute has gone forever.

To enable us to remember important people and events we record or narrate certain  factors. It is now  necessary  to remember a former Indian Army Officer, who was born on 30th July, 1920, one hundred years ago. Maj. General Indar Jit Rikhye’s 100th Birth Anniversary, was observed very recently. His  extraordinary accomplishments, which have been recorded, can come back as a reflection to  his historic odyssey.

In  1985 Gen. Rikhye was awarded the Unesco Prize for Peace Education, which acknowledged his extraordinary activities for perpetuating the ideals of peace in a volatile world. He  was assigned  peacekeeping missions for the United Nations, subsequent to the second world war and Jawaharlal Nehru advised him to accept the UN  appointment.

He was born in Lahore and his father, Dr. Madan Lal Rikhye, was a medical officer in the British Indian army and Gen. Rikhye’s  mother, Smt. Raj Rani Rikhye’s father, Bindraban Sudan, was a prominent Public Prosecutor, in the legal domain of  Punjab.

Gen. Rikhye graduated from the Indian Military Academy in 1939, and was commissioned into  the Bengal Lancers. He saw service in the second world war in the Middle East and Italy. After India’s Independence in 1947 Gen. Rikhye commanded the Royal Deccan Horse in Jammu and Kashmir for four years.

His aptitude for diplomacy, combined with his exceptional experience in military matters, shaped Gen. Rikhye’s  future for serving  the United Nations and he  was destined to be Adviser(Military)  to two Secretary Generals, Dag Hammarskjold and U Thant, from 1957 to 1967.

He commanded peacekeeping forces in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the Middle East. He directed the withdrawal of the UN Emergency Force in Gaza in 1967. He had to abandon the area they were posted at, due to advancing Israeli Defense Forces, who damaged all the peacekeeping force’s  vehicles and communications. Three UN peacekeeping soldiers were killed. Gen. Rikhye with the remaining peacekeeping soldiers headed for a nearby beach in four battered  trucks whose tyres were flattened. When they reached the beach Gen. Rikhye established contact with Cyprus who  in turn relayed his messages to the UN HQ. His terse message was that evacuation was urgently required because, explained Gen Rikhye, “ We are not fighting anyone, but are still under fire!” Gen. Moshe Dayan, the Israeli defense minister, instantly arranged for their transportation to the Port of Ashdod.

His adventures continued as the UN’s  special representative during the Cuban Missile Crisis, in 1962 and later helping people of Congo to achieve independence from foreign infiltrators. He endured a nerve wracking flight with Hammarskjold when their aircraft was refused permission to land. It was Gen. Rikhye’s diplomacy and initiative that enabled the flight to safely touchdown in Congo. He narrated this episode in his book, Trumpets and Tumults.

Subsequent to Gen Rikhye’s  departure from the UN in 1969, he  took over as co-founder of The International Peace Academy, which became a training centre for UN Peacekeeping Forces.

Gen. Rikhye’s endeavours are  acknowledged around the world and  it is fervently  hoped that India too  endorse his exemplary service, with a posthumous award.

By Deepak  Rikhye

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