North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

[op-ed snap] Changing the status quo


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Merger of Assam Rifles and ITBP


The Ministry of Home Affairs has proposed that Assam Rifles should be merged with ITBP and serve under the operational control of the MHA. The Army is opposed to this proposal.

Assam Rifles

  • It is a central paramilitary force.
  • It is under the administrative control of the MHA and operational control of the Army, i.e. the Ministry of Defence. 

History of Assam Rifles


  • It is formed as Cachar Levy in 1835 to assist the British rulers in maintaining peace in the Northeast.
  • It had just about 750 men but proved its capability and efficiency.


  • The unit was converted into the Assam Military Police Battalion with two additional battalions in 1870. They were known as the Lushai Hills Battalion, Lakhimpur Battalion, and Naga Hills Battalion. 
  • Just before World War I, another battalion, the Darrang Battalion, was added. 
  • They all rendered great service by assisting the British in Europe and West Asia during the war. 
  • These battalions were then renamed Assam Rifles. 
  • They were regular armed police battalions, with the ‘Rifles’ tag. It was a matter of honor for their competence.

Post 1962 war

  • After the Chinese aggression in 1962 in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam Rifles battalions were placed under the operational control of the Army. 
  • Assam Rifles personnel who were acclimatised to the region were better suited for operations then. 
  • One of the major causes of India’s defeat was that the regular Army units were not used to extreme weather. 

Situation changed now

  • All Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) are acclimatised to almost every region of the country due to country-wide deployment of all CAPF battalions. 
  • The operational role performed by the ITBP at 18,700 feet in Ladakh is a testimony to its capability to guard the border in any part of the country. 
  • Back in 2001, the Group of Ministers had stated that the principle of ‘One Border, One Force’ should be strictly adhered to. 
  • If ITBP can guard the India-China border in Ladakh, it can also guard the India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh and beyond.
  • Having two masters for an organisation — one for administrative control and another for operational control — is absurd and leads to problems of coordination.
  • Home Ministry’s move to merge all its 55,000-strong Assam Rifles with the ITBP is a step in the right direction.

Opposed to the move

  • The Army argues that the Assam Rifles should be merged with it, to ensure national security. 
  • The army would lose its promotional avenues once this paramilitary force is merged with the ITBP, as it would be directly under the control of the Home Ministry. 
  • At present, nearly 80% of officers’ ranks from Major upwards are held by Army officers on deputation. A Lieutenant-General of the Army holds the post of Director General of Assam Rifles. 
  • For the time being, the Chief may be appointed from among IPS officers. CAPF was brought under the fold of Organised Group ‘A’ Service this year. The direct officers of Assam Rifles will eventually take up the top posts.


The merger issue needs to be taken up on priority by the CCS so that doubts are cleared. The mode of absorbing the officers should be worked out to avoid a vacuum being created once the deputationists are repatriated to the Army.


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