The Assam Rifles is the country's oldest paramilitary force, having been founded in 1835 in British India with only 750 soldiers. It has since fought in two World Wars, the 1962 Sino-Indian war, and as an anti-insurgency force against terrorist groups in the Middle East. Raised as a militia to protect British tea estates and their settlements from the raids of the NE tribes, the force was first known as Cachar Levy.
It was eventually renamed Assam Frontier Force as its mandate grew to include punitive actions outside Assam's borders. It continues to be India's most decorated paramilitary force, both pre-and post-independence.
Given its contribution in opening the region to administration and commerce, it came to be known as the “right arm of the civil and left arm of the military”.
Known as 'Friends of the Hill People, headquartered in Shillong. The Force is responsible for both internal security in the North-Eastern region and border security along the Indo-Myanmar border.
They serve a variety of functions, including providing internal security under the army's supervision through counterinsurgency and border security operations, assisting the civil authorities in times of crisis, and providing communications, medical help, and education in isolated places. They can also be utilized as a military force to secure rear areas during times of conflict.
A helpful hand is extended to humanitarian causes and natural disasters.
Conducts development efforts in the North-East, including the construction of roads and tracks, water supply schemes, schools, community halls, and playgrounds for village children, as well as the repair and upkeep of remote area buildings.
Since 2002, it has served as the Border Guarding Force for the Indo–Myanmar border, following the government's "one border, one force" policy.
The Assam Rifles' contribution to the North-East's integration into the national mainstream is genuinely significant.
The Assam Rifles is the only paramilitary force that operates under dual control. While the force is administratively controlled by the MHA, it is operationally controlled by the Indian Army, which is part of the Ministry of Defence.
This has resulted in two sets of requests from both within the Assam Rifles and from the MoD and MHA for one ministry to have sole control over the force. A sizable portion of the force wishes to be administratively controlled by the MoD, as this would entail significantly superior perks and retirement benefits in comparison to CAPFs under MHA. Additionally, CAPF officers have lately been granted non-functional financial upgrades (NFFU) to offset the financial impact of career stagnation due to a lack of promotion opportunities. However, Army troops also receive a one-rank-one pension, which CAPFs do not receive.
MHA argues that because all border guarding troops are operationally controlled by the ministry, including Assam Rifles into the ministry will provide a complete and integrated approach to border guards.
On its side, the Army has argued that there is no reason to fix what is not wrong. According to Army sources, the Assam Rifles has worked well in conjunction with the Army and relieves the armed forces of many of their responsibilities, allowing them to focus on their core competencies. Additionally, it has been contended that Assam Rifles was always a military organization, not a police agency, and was built accordingly. It contended that ceding authority of the force to MHA or merging it with another CAPF would create confusion and jeopardize national security.
In a true sense, the force is the sole central paramilitary force (CPMF), as its operational responsibilities and regimentation are similar to those of the Indian Army. However, as a Central Armed Police force under the MHA, its recruitment, perks, promotion, and retirement regulations are governed by the MHA's CAPF laws.