The Assam Rifles raised as Cachar Levy in 1835 is the oldest Central Para
Military Force in India. The Force was raised mainly to guard the alluvial
plains of Assam from the wild and unruly tribes inhabiting the surrounding hill
tracts. This was the earliest embodied unit of what
developed into the Assam Rifles. Gradually more such units were raised and
employed for establishing posts in the interior and thus acted as the strong arm
of the civil administration in extending their authority into these remote
inaccessible areas. They also helped in opening up these remote areas and all
development activities earning many accolades from the administration. The Assam
Rifles contribution towards assimilation of the people of the North-East into
the national mainstream is truly monumental. Their long association with the
region reflects in the force being fondly called "The Sentinels of the
North-East" and "Friends of the Hill People". As on today, the Force has 46
battalions and has a dual role of maintaining internal security in the
North-Eastern region and guarding the Indo-Myanmar Border. Variously designated
and reorganised from time to time, as the Assam Frontier Police (1883), the
Assam Military Police (1891) and Eastern Bengal and Assam Military Police
(1913), it came to be known by its present name of the Assam Rifles, in 1917 in
recognition of its contribution to the war effort during World War I. During its
long history, the Assam Rifles has earned many laurels both in aid to the civil
administration as also fighting alongside the Army. The Force has been officered
by Army Officers since 1884 and is today, on a per capita basis perhaps the
highest decorated security force in the country.
The Force has always extended a helping hand for humanitarian causes and in
natural calamities. The force has made a significant impact on development
activities in the North-East by way of construction of roads and tracks, water
sup schemes, schools, community halls, play grounds for village children and
repair/ maintenance of buildings in the remote areas.
Operationally, the force has a proud record of taking part in both the world
wars and all post independence conflicts. During World War I, the Assam Rifles
fought alongside the Indian Army in Flanders. In recognition of the excellent
services rendered the force was christened as ‘Assam Rifles’.
Assam Rifles remained untouched by World War II until the danger of Japanese
invasion made it imperative to deploy forces on the North East Sector as well.
WW II saw the force functioning as elements of the much fabled, hush-hush and
ghost-like “V” Force, on reconnaissance and harassment missions behind Japanese
lines in Burma. Many of its sub units fought alongside regular British and
Indian troops in the fiercely contested battles of the Burma Front from Ukhrul
to Kohima. Units rendered yeoman service in the management, evacuation and
control of refugees of Burma/NEFA in the face of the onslaught of the Imperial
Japanese Army in the First Burma Campaign of WWII.
Following the end of the war, the five Assam Rifles battalions became part of
the civil police under the Assam Inspector General of Police. After
independence, however, the Indian government assigned the Assam Rifles its own
The Assam Rifles were then placed under command of the Ministry of External
Affairs as part of the North Eastern Frontier Agency. Post 1965 the force has
come under the Ministry of Home Affairs while the operational control of the
force continues to be with the Army.The present Director General of the Assam
Rifles is Lieutenant General R K Rana, SM, VSM.
In 1947 the state of Tripura was threatened by Pakistani Irregulars from East
Pakistan on the lines of their invasion of Kashmir. Ten platoons under the IGAR
were flown to Agartala and carried out operations to deter the Pakistan
irregulars from making any further move. The Assam Rifles contained the threat.
The role of the Assam Rifles continued to evolve; when in 1950 a devastating
earthquake hit the Assam region and the force was called in to assist in the
reconstruction of the areas and help in the resettlement and rehabilitation of
those affected by it.
In late 1953 the first signs of political unrest were noticed in Tuensang in
Nagaland and the Indian Army was called in with the Assam Rifles providing the
main force to contain the rebels. The grave threat posed by the insurgency
necessitated the expansion of Assam Rifles.
also resulted in the creation of the Assam Rifles Training Centre at Missamari
on 01 Jan 1959 that was designed to train 600 recruits at a time.
The force was once again called to undertake a combat role, when in 1959 the
Chinese annexed Tibet. His Holiness the Dalai Lama fled from Tibet and came to
India. He was received at the Chuthangmu Pass on the Mc Mahon Line by the men of
the 5th Battalion Assam Rifles and escorted safely to Misamari in the Foothills.
For this act, His Holiness donated all his weapons to the battalion and blessed
the Force with the following words:-
MAY YOUR LUCK INCREASE TO THE SIZE OF A MOUNTAIN MAY YOUR FAME BE SUCH AS TO
COVER THE WHOLE SKY MAY YOUR KNOWLEDGE BECOME VAST AND DEEP AS THE SEA LONG AND
HEALTHY LIVES TO YOU AND HOPE YOUR WORK. FOR OTHERS, WILL BE A SUCCESS.
Following the annexation of Tibet by the Chinese, The Indian Army was compelled
to adopt a forwards posture to prevent any Chinese occupation of Indian
Territory by force. The Assam Rifles unit established new posts in uninhabited
areas at high altitudes in order to maintain a constant vigilance of our border
and when the Chinese finally attacked in Oct 1962, officers and men of the force
fought bravely combating and delaying the Chinese advance thereby allowing the
Indian Army to reach their battle locations in time. The Assam Rifles had once
again proved their dependability.
During the 1965 Indo – Pak conflict the Assam Rifles filled the void in Nagaland
and Manipur due to the move of the army units for operations in the west. They
conducted counter insurgency operations and were in addition responsible for the
general law and order situation. Its deployment was further stretched as they
were to stand in for the army along the Indo-Tibetan border and the
international border with the erstwhile East Pakistan in Tripura. Rather thin on
the ground, they fulfilled their assignments with the usual élan and fortitude.
During the 1971 Indo – Pak conflict the brief encompassed not only Nagaland and
Manipur but also Mizoram and Tripura, where active counter insurgency operations
were in full swing.
OP PAWAN in Sri Lanka saw the deployment of 22, 23 and 26 battalions from Dec
1988 to Feb 1990. 7 and 26 battalions also saw active counter insurgency
operations in the Srinagar Valley.
Through its long deployment in the tribal belt, the Assam Rifles have developed
an ethos primarily based on friendship with the people of the region and have
earned their complete confidence. 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. The Assam Rifles detachments located in remote areas continue to
influence every aspect of the lives of the people of the region, be it
education, health, constructional activity, agricultural assistance, veterinary
assistance, or assistance during natural calamities. The humane, just and ever
helping approach of the men of the force have managed to win the hearts and
minds of the populace in a good natured and large-hearted manner. It is;
therefore, not for nothing, that the famous and erudite anthropologist and
naturalist Verrier Elwin, who was nominated by the Government of India as
adviser on Tribal Affairs to North-East Frontier Agency; had this to say as
tribute to the force:-
“The custodians of law and order, the pioneers of every advance in to the
interior, the guardians of our borders and, the friends of the hill people.
Modestly, and without fuss, they have faced every hardship and difficulty, and
thousands of villagers in the wildest of areas think of them with affection and
At present The Force is a potent organization with 46 battalions and its
associated command and administrative back up. It is designated by the GoM
committee as the Border Guarding Force for the Indo – Myanmaar border and is
also its lead intelligence agency.