Indian Army

Explained: Fight Over Sentinels of the North East Assam Rifles

The Delhi high court in its recent statement gives the government 12 weeks to decide who will control the Assam rifles MHA (ministry of Home Affairs) or MOD ( ministry of defense). This case between MHA and MOD dates back to 2013 when BSF was to be given the charge of the whole northeastern border and MHA total control over it although this plan didn’t reach to any conclusion. The HC requested the Chief of Army Staff, Director General Of Assam Rifles, Ministry of Home Affairs, and Ministry of Defence to cooperate in the making of the final decision within a given time.

Military, Para-military, and CAPF

Indian Armed Forces can be categorized mainly into four sections Military, para-military, CAPF, and State Police. Most of us consider military, para-military, and CAPF (Central Armed Police Forces) the same, but there is a difference between all these forces. There is a difference in their functioning and controlling.

  • Military

Indian military mainly comprises the Army, Airforce, and Navy. All these forces work in their respective regions and their main job is to protect India from any external adversaries, they are the front line fighters in the war. These forces come under the Ministry of Defence (MOD).

  • Para-military

These are the forces that are generally formed to support the army and can act as a backup at times of war. They are generally headed by army officers and can be used to control internal threats,but have different functions, insignia, and uniforms. Assam and SFF (Special Frontier force) come under this category.

  • CAPF (Central Armed Police Forces)

The primary role of CAPF is guarding the borders, help police to maintain law and order, handling internal threats, and providing security to government and PSU assets. It comprises of 6 different forces namely :

  1. CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) – helps state govt. to maintain law and order, assist Army for counter-insurgency operations)
  2. CISF (Central Industrial Security Force) – provides security to govt. assets and PSU e.g Airports.
  3. BSF (Border Security Force) – guards the India – Pakistan, and India-Bangladesh border.
  4. SSB (Sashsatra Seema Bal) – deployed in Nepal and Bhutan border.
  5. ITBP (Indo-Tibetian Border Police) – Guards the Indo-Sino (China) border.
  6. NSG (National Security Guards) – elite counter-terrorism organization

Assam Rifle case

Assam Rifles Logo.jpg
Motto – Sentinels of the North East

The Assam rifle is one of the oldest organizations in the Indian Armed Forces established in 1835 under British rule with the name Cachar Levy which later changed to Assam Rifles in 1917.


  • The primary objective of Assam Rifles is to perform counter-insurgency operations and to deal with internal threats mainly in the North-East region.
  • It also provides medical and communication aid to civilians during a time of emergency e.g Assam Riddles played a crucial role to deal with the 1950 Assam earthquake.
  • In times of war Assam Rifles can assist the Indian army to counter any external threat e.g in the 1962 Indo-China war Assam Rifles was used to deal with PLA till the Indian Army arrived.
  • It also provides security to the Indo-Myanmar border.
  • In recognition of the unit’s skill in counter-insurgency operations, three battalions were deployed on Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka between December 1988 and February 1990 which shows the strength of this force.

It is the only armed force that has Dual-Control Structure. In this structure, MHA controls the administrative authority ( salary, pensions, infrastructure, and other perks) whereas the Indian Army handles the operational control ( posting, duty ). The DGAR (Director General of Assam Rifles) the head of Assam Rifles is in fact an Army officer of the rank of Lt. General.

Also Read, Things You Should Know About India’s Oldest Paramilitary Force

MoD vs MHA

Ex-Servicemen on strike

The reason for all this problem is the Dual-Control Structure. In a petition filed by the Assam Rifles Ex-Serviceman Welfare Association, they request the government for placing Assam Rifles under the control of the Army as their function and operational ability are the same as of Army. The function of Assam Rifles and the army may be the same but there is a difference in salary, pension, perks, and policies of the Army compared to that of Assam Rifles.

“The greatest inequity affecting the morale of the Assam Rifles personnel operating alongside the Army on similar duties is the disparity in the pay scale of the two. Somehow the Assam Rifles personnel call themselves a ‘Cheap Army’,” the plea said.

MHA wants Assam Rifles to be under its control as it will give border guarding roles a complete and integrated approach like the other CAPFs. Whereas the Army wants to maintain the Status Quo (no change ) because of good coordination between these two forces and the change in the control of AR will create confusion and can affect national security.

The HC directed govt. that there should not be any delay as the case has been pending for nearly 3 years and it’s a matter involving the interest of servicemen/ex-servicemen which is to be given priority.

The plan to merge AR with ITBP was which will be controlled by MHA was also proposed in 2019 the decision is still pending.


Karan Bisht

A defense aspirant trying to share and gain knowledge with you. Suggestions and corrections are welcomed in comment section.


  1. Assam Rifles should go to in the full Army control.Assam Rifles doing great job in there field.It must have to go under MOD.

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