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Rashtriya Rifles

To reduce the commitment of Army on internal security duties, the Rashtriya Rifles (RR) has been at the forefront in counter-insurgency (CI) operations.

Indian strategists believed that in the event of a war, the 40,000-strong Rashtriya Rifles would protect the lines of communication and supplies from terrorist attacks in Jammu and Kashmir. Made up of troops posted on deputation from the Army, the Rashtriya Rifles was meant to ensure that India's LoC divisions could do their job, engaging Pakistan, unhindered by guerilla action.

The Regiment has a distinct dress code, akin to a rifle regiment. Its badge depicts two crossed AK-47 rifles with fixed bayonets atop which is the coveted Ashoka Chakra. Beneath, in a banner, is emblazoned the motto of this force - dridhta aur virta. Incidentally, the AK-47 is the main personal weapon of this force.

Rashtriya Rifles was raised as a para-military force as it was envisaged that personnel posted to RR would comprise regular Army volunteers on deputation, ex-servicemen and lateral inductees from various para-military forces and central police organisations. However, ever since its inception this force has comprised hundred per cent regular Army deputationists.

This is the only regiment where troops from the Infantry and other arms and services operate together to combat terrorism under a common RR banner. Each battalion comprises six rifle companies. The infantry component comprises sixty per cent troops while that of other arms forms twentyfive per cent. The remaining fifteen per cent troops comprises task oriented troops from various services to provide the logistic back-up to the RR battalion.

All individuals, prior to joining their respective units, have to undergo a four-week rigorous pre-induction training at a Corps Battle School. This is followed by two weeks of 'on-the-job' training and a periodic refresher training cadre under sector arrangements.

The reputation of Rashtriya Rifles as a specialised anti-terrorist force has a tremendous impact on the militant's psyche who avoid any kind of direct confrontation with RR troops. Secondly, due to the proactive nature of operations conducted by well-trained and well-equipped troops, militants lost a number of their cadres, arms and equipment which was a grave setback to them. Such pressures against the militants have been continuously maintained by RR troops in a relentless manner. The motivation of all ranks to perform better has it roots in various factors such as a sense of pride to get selected in a special force with a separate identity, dress and organisation. Each individual is given here the opportunity to prove his mettle in operational field.

The achievements of RR have been laudable indeed. Amongst its plethora of honours and awards won are one Ashoka Chakra, 10 Kirti Chakra, 53 Shaurya Chakra and 300 Sena Medals. Among the awardees on Republic Day this year were Lt Gen Avtar Singh, the former Director General and Colonel of the Rashtriya Rifles who was bestowed with the coveted Param Vishisht Seva Medal for distinguished service of an exceptionally high order. This award has also been conferred to Lt Gen RS Kadyan who was the Director General and Colonel of the Rashtriya Rifles. Sixteen units of the Rashtriya Rifles have been conferred with the coveted Chief of Army Staff's Unit Citation as well.

As there is more permanence in the deployment of RR formations and units, they have a better rapport with the locals to gain more authentic flow of intelligence. As a result of all these factors, the junior leaders of RR battalions are able to take greater risks, often at the cost of their own lives to attain their operational goals. They always lead from the front, thereby setting an example for others to emulate. The fact that they have neutralised more than 7000 terrorists, captured more than 6000 weapons of all types and won more than 2000 honours and awards speaks volumes of this organisation.

Faced with internal security challenges in Kashmir and elsewhere, the Indian army is interested in reducing its overall strength and using available revenue for force modernization. Some Indian spokesmen have suggested that increasing the use of light army forces, such as the Rashtriya Rifles, to fulfill missions in Kashmir and elsewhere could reduce the need for regular army forces in an internal-security role and help realize cuts. Such a move, it is argued, would better correspond to the real security issues with which India must deal. Others have suggested that the Rashtriya Rifles battalions be re-examined in light of their predominant internal-security duties and gendarme-like character. This is likely to remain a topic of close consideration and debate within the army and the government, as India re-evaluates its national-security requirements, its force-modernization priorities, and its approaches to internal security.

Rashtriya Rifles (RR) Chronology

In 1990, the Rashtriya Rifles (RR) was established with six battalions and two sector headquarters. The Rashtriya Rifles was raised by former chief of Army staff General B C Joshi in 1990 for the exclusive role of fighting insurgency in Kashmir.

In 1993, the Indian army expanded its role in the Kashmir Valley when it deployed the Rashtriya Rifles. The 36-battalion formation, a light elite counterinsurgency force, was formed specifically to compensate for weak and untrustworthy local police and increasingly well-armed insurgents in Kashmir.

The force was further expanded in 1994-95.

By 1996, as guerrilla problems grew, tens of thousands of regular army units joined the Rashtriya Rifles in the valley, further supplemented by a police counterinsurgency special task force composed principally of non-Muslim personnel not from the local area.

For the creation of this legendary force, many sacrifices have been made by various organisations and individuals. To begin with, Headquarters Counter Insurgency Force, a formation headquarter equivalent to a corps headquarters, was sanctioned by the Government in 1994 for the overall command and control of Rashtriya Rifles. This headquarter was trifurcated later to form two operative force headquarters in J&K and a Rashtriya Rifles Directorate at Army HQ, Delhi.

The nature of tasks makes it imperative on the part of RR personnel to sacrifice basic comforts of life. The Army, as a whole, has made many sacrifices. The manpower for raising of the RR force was drawn from the units of the regular Army. These units operated with reduced manpower till deficiency was made up. The reserves of the Army was used for equipping newly raised RR battalions. The regimental centers of all arms and services had also undertaken the additional task of training persons posted to RR. A substantial amount of Army's budget was used for raising and maintaining RR till 1998. The budget of RR has been separated from defence budget since the financial year 1998-99.

The relationship of the RR with the local people, civil administration and law-inforcing agencies has been of an exceptionally high order. This has been possible due to regular interaction with the locals by RR formations, units and even companies. Various core group meetings are held periodically wherein the problems of the people are looked into and acted upon with compassion. Numerous civic action programmes like construction of water points, community centres and improvement of schools, mosques, roads and tracks have been undertaken. Hundreds of school children have been taken on various RR sponsored educational-cum-cultural tours to various historical places in India. Other successes of this force include successful conduct of parliamentary and state assembly elections in 1997 and 1998 respectively, management of entire counter-insurgency and rear area security operations in J&K during operation Vijay, elimination of over 2700 militants since its raising, capture of large quantities of arms, ammunition and warlike stores, causing confusion and disarray amidst various militant cadres and improving the quality of life of the local public in their respective areas of responsibility.

In 1998, Surankot, a militant dominated tehsil of Poonch district was reeling under insurgency and drew attention of everyone in India in general and Jammu & Kashmir in particular. The common man was in a state of fear, markets were deserted and there was virtual breakdown of civil life. The civil administration too was subdued by a number of sabotage activities and made nonfunctional. The militants had even created their own capital called 'Faisalabad'. The battalions of Rashtriya Rifles (RR) were tasked to bring back normalcy in this area. In a short span, they eliminated more than 200 militants, including foreign mercenaries. Today you see smiles on people's faces as normalcy is restored. National days, religious functions, sports events and marriage functions are being celebrated with impunity and greater fervour. Democratic political activity has witnessed a momentum with the emergence of sarpanchs and Panchs in the Panchayat polls.

Operation Vijay ended in a decisive victory and the need was felt to focus all attention on combating insurgency. It was at this juncture that it was decided to raise Kay Force under the stewardship of Maj Gen Nirbhay Sharma. The orders for its raising were issued on September 1, 1999 and the formation was fully operational within 20 days, with the motto "Tougher the Better." On getting operational, the formation was increasingly entrusted with a huge area of responsibility comprising most parts of North and Central Kashmir. The terrain varied from chilling snow covered heights to riverine marshland waterbodies, from dense forests to paddy fields and crowded villages, covering a total covering area of over 6,500 sq km. Coupled to all this was a hostile population who were apprehensive of the security forces while at the same time being exploited by the terrorists.

By 2001 all the four force HQs, which include 12 sector HQs and 36 battalions, were deployed in J&K. While CI Force `R' is responsible for combating terrorism in the districts of Rajouri and Poonch, CI Force `D' has been taking care of Doda district. Likewise, CI Force `V' is responsible for the districts of Anantnag, Pulwama and Badgam and CI Force `K' has been deployed in the districts of Kupwara, Baramulla and Srinagar.

In April 2001 the Center exclusively earmarked more than Rs 600 crore in order to raise 30 battalions of the Rashtriya Rifles (RR) for combating militancy in Kashmir. These new battalions, comprising men and officers from within the Army, will help the present 30 Rashtriya Rifles battalions perform internal security and anti-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and some other parts of the country. Each battalion having 1,150 men and officers will be controlled by the Army. These battalions will help the Army to withdraw its regular troops from J&K and re-train them to guard borders and fight. The objective is to gradually withdraw regular Army formations from internal security (IS) duties in J&K.

Six Army battalions raised especially for Jammu and Kashmir (J-K) counter insurgency operations underwent special training, and started deployment in the state by 01 September 2001. With the entire state barring Ladakh under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the Army began deploying additional forces to tighten the security net, with 7,200 soldiers of six newly-raised battalions. The battalions are assigned to the Rashtriya Rifles (RR), but parent Regiments raised them at their respective regimental centres. One of the six battalions was raised in New Delhi (Rajputana Rifles). The Maratha Light Infantry (MLI) RR battalion was raised at Belgaum, the Madras Regiment at Tiruchi, the Assam Regiment RR battalion at Shillong, the Punjab RR at Ramgarh, Grenadiers at Jabalpur and the Dogra Regiment RR battalion at Faizabad. The newly-raised battalions underwent special training at the Army's counter insurgency warfare school near Jammu. The Army had six months to raise and train the soldiers for the highly specialised operations. After that there was a four-week-long capsule course in laying ambushes in hills and mountains, detecting and disarming IEDs, carrying out cordon and search operations and carrying out operations to neutralise terrorists in heavily populated neighbourhoods.

The 59th Rashtriya Rifles Battalion (Assam) was formally raised at Assam Regimental Centre, Shillong in May 2004. This is the third RR battalion of Assam Regiment. Brig WJB Sturgeon, Commandant, 58 Gorkha Training Centre, unfurled the RR flag at a glittering ceremony held at Happy Valley, Shillong. Lt Col Suchindra Kumar has been deputed as the Commanding Officer of the battalion. The newly raised battalion comprises 24 officers, 38 JCOs and 1,141 other ranks posted from various battalions of the Assam Regiment.

The security environment in the state of J&K is dynamic and is reviewed constantly based on threat perceptions.

To reduce the commitment of Army on internal security duties, the Government had given in principle approval in 2000, to raise 30 more Rashtriya Rifles battalions, to bring up the total strength of Rashtriya Rifles troops to five Force Headquarters, 17 Sector Headquarters and 66 Rashtriya Rifles Battalions by the year 2005.

By 2004 Rashtriya Rifles battalions (1 to 57) had been raised and inducted in the Northern Sector. Rashtriya Rifles Battalions (58 to 63) were under raising.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:43:35 ZULU