Assam Rifles: A brief history

From a semi-military body in 1835, Assam Rifles has evolved into a region-specific force that has the northeastern region as its area of operation.

Published : Jun 15, 2023 11:00 IST - 2 MINS READ

Area domination operation launched by the Army and Assam Rifles on June 4 as part of a joint strategy for the recovery of snatched weapons.

Area domination operation launched by the Army and Assam Rifles on June 4 as part of a joint strategy for the recovery of snatched weapons. | Photo Credit: Pitamber Newar/ANI

Assam Rifles, one of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) under the Ministry of Home Affairs, conducts counterinsurgency operations in north-eastern India and other areas where deemed necessary. According to its website, during times of peace and ‘proxy war’, it has to ensure the security of the India-China and India-Myanmar borders. In internal security matters, it acts under the purview of the Army, as the penultimate interventionist force of the Central government when the situation goes beyond the control of other paramilitary forces.

Its operational control is with the Indian Army, with an officer of the rank of Lieutenant General commanding the force. The headquarters of the Director-General of Assam Rifles (DGAR) is in Shillong unlike other Central paramilitary forces, all of which have their headquarters in New Delhi.

Assam Rifles has its origins in 1835 as a militia called the ‘Cachar Levy’ to protect British tea estates and their settlements against tribal raids. It later became the ‘Frontier Force’ conducting punitive expeditions across the borders of Assam. In 1870, the existing elements were merged into three Assam Military Police Battalions, sending over 3,000 men as part of the British Army to Europe and West Asia. In 1917, the name was changed to Assam Rifles.

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The force has evolved post-Independence, from combat roles during the Sino-India War 1962 to being a part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka in 1987, besides performing peacekeeping roles in north-eastern India. From 17 battalions in 1960 it has grown to 46 battalions today.

On July 15, 2004, 12 Manipur women staged a naked protest in front of the Assam Rifles headquarters at Kangla Fort in Imphal against the custodial rape and death of 32-year-old Manorama Thangjam four days earlier. She was picked up by Assam Rifles personnel for questioning and her bullet-riddled body was later found in a paddy field.

The force’s HQ was shifted from Kangla Fort, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh handed the fort over to the Manipur government on November 20, 2004.

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