Assam Rifles is a Para Military Organisation of the Ministry of Home Affairs [MHA] functioning under the administrative and operational control of the Army. The personnel are recruited into this force on all India basis at different places within the age group of 18 years to 23 years. Unlike Army, the personnel of Assam Rifles can serve upto the age of 60 years.
Until 1947, the force comprising five battalions formed part of civil police under the Inspector General of Police, Assam. After Independence this arrangement was terminated and a full-fledged Inspector General was appointed to head the Force, the first incumbent being Mr HG Bartley, IP, CIE. Since 1948 the Inspector General has traditionally been an Army officer on deputation. The first Indian to hold the coveted appointment was Colonel Sidhiman Rai, MC. As the strength of the Force grew, the post of Inspector General was upgraded to Brigadier, then to Major General and eventually to Lieutenant General (Director General) in September 1979.
Today, the Force comprises of the Directorate General Assam Rifles at Shillong, the apex controlling headquarters, one Inspector General headquarters, seven Range Headquarters and thirty one battalions deployed all over the North Eastern Region (including Sikkim). It has its own Training Centre for training recruits drawn from different parts of the country. The Force is officered primarily by Army officers on deputation, with some departmental promotees.
The Assam Rifles has acquired an All India responsibility as a Central Para Military Force. Three battalions were employed in Sri Lanka and eight in Jammu and Kashmir, where two battalions were awarded "Unit Citation" by the Chief of Army Staff, and one battalion the GOC-in-C's Unit Citation for their excellent performance.
Considering that the Force comprises of only 31 battalions the achievements of the Assam Rifles during the post Independence period have been stupendous. The Force has won about 1000 awards which include 02 Ashok Chakras, 02 PVSM, 29 Kirti Chakras, 05 VrC, 107 Shaurya Chakras, 01 YSM, 129 Sena Medals, and 54 VSM. The award of 03 Ashok Chakras, the highest gallantry award in peace, is indeed a rare distinction which remains unrivalled amongst paramilitary forces.
The valley of the river Brahmaputra, later known as Assam, which formed an integral part of the political and cultural tradition of ancient Bharat, seems to have drifted into a hazy limbo in middle-history and came back into prominence only during the past two centuries. There was little cultural or other contact between the mainland of India and the north eastern corner of the sub-continent during the Moghul era. It was not until the early nineteenth century that Assam was drawn into the mainstream of India through the British colonial process but even thereafter, the specialized administration that was imposed on Assam and its hill tracts served to keep it socially and culturally isolated till very recent times. Today the former areas of "Assam" have been regrouped politically in seven different States of India, namely Meghalaya, Assam, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Nagaland and Manipur.
The "Sentinels of the North East" aptly epitomizes the role of the Assam Rifles. The saga of this Force begins with British attempt to extend their rule into the North Eastern Tracts of India in the latter part of eighteenth century and early nineteenth century. A small force of 750 combatants, called the Cachar Levy, was raised in the year 1835. This small force was ill equipped, ill paid, ill trained, ill armed and was conceived as an armed police unit to guard the settlements and tea estates against depredations by marauding tribals and had to bear with fortitude the rigours of opening the eastern border regions. In recognition of their contribution the force had come to be recognised as "Right arm of the civil and left arm of the military". As parts of the inaccessible areas of the North East region were brought under the control of the administration, the war-like inhabitants residing in the region were progressively subdued and pacified. Small townships gradually grew around the outposts initially established by the Force. Almost all old Assam Rifles posts are now the centers of fairly large townships, capitals of newly formed states and district headquarters; Aizawl, Imphal, Lungleh, Kohima, Mokokchung, Tuensang, Halflong, Cherrapunji and Tura being some of these.
The title of the Force has undergone many changes; Cachar Levy, Assam Military Police, Frontier Police and so on. From its very inception, the Force has been actively involved in various operations and the jawans have grown up amidst expeditions and combat. During World War I, the Force provided as many as 23 officers and 3,174 soldiers to Gorkha regiments of the Indian Army besides whom they fought in Europe and the Middle East, winning in the process, as many as seventy six gallantry awards. This included seven Indian Order of Merit and five Indian Distinguished Service Medals. 130 Other Ranks of Assam Rifles serving with Gorkha Regiment were specially promoted in the field. Eventually, in 1917, in recognition of the contribution made by the Force towards the war effort, the Government of India redesignated the Force as the 'Assam Rifles'.
After World War I, the Assam Rifles, in conjunction with the Army undertook many expeditions into remote tribal areas of the North East and some trans-border expeditions into Burma. Columns of the Assam Rifles were despatched to Patna in 1917, to restore law and order in the riot-torn city and in 1924 to Malabar, then part of Madras Presidency, to operate against the Mopla rebels.
Barely four years after the Assam Rifles celebrated their centenary, fresh war clouds gathered on the horizon, culminating in the outbreak of World War II. The Japanese laid claim to vast portions of South East - Asia and in their victorious surge, knocked on the Indian borders. The war in Burma brought in its wake a large influx of refugees into India. Starting as early as in March 1942, the influx of refugees gathered momentum and became almost uncontrollable. It fell to the lot of the Assam Rifles to undertake the onerous responsibility of evacuating and controlling this unfortunate mass of humanity ploughing their way with endless misery. Harassed by the travails of the jungles and the perpetual fear of the Japanese and the marauding tribals, the sight of an Assam Rifles post, was often, an answer to their prayers for God's grace.
The Second World War saw the Assam Rifles under-taking multifarious roles. The Assam Rifles were tasked to organise a resistance group on the Indo-Burmese border to counter the Japanese invasion and to disrupt their lines of communication. The whole concept was contained in Plan Number V, and the Resistance Force so formed and organised, came to be known as 'VICTOR FORCE'. The Assam Rifles, which formed the nucleus of this Force, covered itself with glory with the exemplary performance of its platoons. They fought gallant independent actions far into Burmese territory behind the enemy lines and later fought doggedly in the defence boxes established along the line from Kohima to Ukhrul. No less spectacular was the operation carried out by the 1st Battalion as a part of the Lushai Brigade, who ventured ahead to resist the Japanese in the Chin Hills. As part of the V Force, a number of Assam Rifles platoons acted as covering forces both during the defensive and the offensive phases of the operations in Burma. One of the platoons of the 4th Battalion was also trained as paratroops and dropped near the Sittang River behind Japanese lines. By the time the war ended, officers and men of all the five battalions had distinguished themselves by displaying high professional excellence and great valour. The Force won as many as forty eight awards consisting of three Members of the British Empire, five Military Cross, four Order of British India, one Indian Order of Merit, thirteen Military Medals, fifteen Indian Distinguished Service Medals and seven British Empire Medals.
After India gained Independence from British rule, the Force consolidated its territories. In 1950, Assam was rocked by a severe earthquake, the worst in living memory, with its epicenter near Rema, just North of the Indo-Tibet border. The earthquake had a devastating affect in the surrounding areas of the Mishmi and Abor Hills around Sadiya town. Reconstruction of the areas and help in the resettlement and rehabilitation of the local people was the primary task allotted to the Assam Rifles troops located around Sadiya, which they performed commendably and for which they are still remembered by the locals.
In 1959, when His Holiness the Dalai Lama fled Tibet and sought refuge in India. He was received at the Chuthangmu Pass on the MacMohan Line by the men of the 5th Battalion Assam Rifles and escorted safely to Misamari in the Foothills.
When the Chinese struck in Oct 1962, officers and men of the Force fought bravely combating the Chinese advance. They thus provided the desired delay to enable the Indian Army to reach their battle locations. The Assam Rifles once again proved that they were entirely dependable.
Since Independence, some of the North Eastern States became an arena for secessionist and insurgent activities. Maintenance of law and order, countering insurgency and reassuring the people of the region became an important tasks for the security forces. These tasks initially fell on the Assam Rifles and when the Army eventually assumed control, the latter relied heavily on the experience and competence of the former. With the problems still continuing unresolved, the Assam Rifles, in conjunction with the Army, continues to remain deployed in remote and under-developed areas, braving hostile terrain, extreme climates and effectively combating insurgency.
Through its long deployment in the tribal belt, the Assam Rifles have developed ethos primarily based on friendship with the peoples of the region. The Assam Rifles have traditionally participated in all developmental activities of the region and have helped in bringing the people of this remote and under-developed region into the national main stream.
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