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Assam Rifles recalls association with Dalai Lama on his entry into India over 6 decades ago

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Guwahati, Mar 30 (PTI) As the escape of the 14th Dalai Lama to India from his homeland Tibet completes 65 years on Saturday, the Assam Rifles, which was entrusted with his safe evacuation, recalled its continued association with the spiritual leader.

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The 5th battalion of the force was given the task of bringing in the Dalai Lama and his entourage safely through the North East Frontier Agency, now Arunachal Pradesh, to Assam as they entered Indian territory on March 31, 1959.

“The legacy of the 5th Assam Rifles’ escort of the Dalai Lama in 1959 remains a poignant chapter in the shared history of India and Tibet, symbolising the enduring spirit of friendship, support and humanitarianism,” the paramilitary force said in a statement.

It added that the bond with the Dalai Lama has continued over the years, with a body of the troop, often called the ‘the Dalai Lama battalion’, visiting the leader every year in Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh to seek his blessings.

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The spiritual leader has also kept his memories of the 5th Assam Rifles during his evacuation, which he recalled during his visit to Guwahati in April 2017, the Assam Rifles said.

He also met havildar Naren Chandra Das (retired) during that visit, who was part of the group that had escorted him till Tezpur in Assam.

As a token of appreciation, the Dalai Lama presented his personal weapons to the 5th Assam Rifles, which are now displayed at the Assam Rifles Museum in Shillong.

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The 5th Assam Rifle was deployed in Kameng Frontier Division of Arunachal Pradesh in 1958 and its posts span over a large area including Chuthangmu, Bumla and Chuna in Kameng Frontier and Longju and Taksing in Subansiri Frontier.

The 14th Dalai Lama had escaped from Lhasa on March 17, 1959, and on March 26, his caravan reached Lhuntse Dzong - a few days march from the McMahon Line, the border between India and Tibet.

As news of the Dalai Lama's escape spread, the Indian government responded by dispatching a contingent of 5th Assam Rifles to ensure his safe passage into the country.

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On March 31, the spiritual leader was received by the party of the 5th Assam Rifles and the people of Monyulat at the Frontier Post of Chuthangmu in Kameng Division.

He was escorted by the paramilitary force through Tawang, Bomdila and then to Tezpur, from where he proceeded further into the country.

Following the Dalai Lamai’s forced exile to India, the frontier posts of Chuthangmu, Bumla and Chuna saw a mass ingress of armed Tibetan refugees called ‘Khampas’, and the 5th Assam Rifles thereafter escorted approximately 12,000 refugees through the Kameng Frontier Division.

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The force also recalled that the Dalai Lama’s escape marked a crucial moment not just in Tibetan history but also in the evolution of the Indo-Chinese relationship.

“The Chinese Government considers the Dalai Lama a separatist threat due to his advocacy for Tibetan autonomy. The entire episode of the Dalai Lama fleeing through the Indo-Tibet border to India, irked China to the extent that it moved its troops to the India-China border and claimed vast areas of Indian Territory in Kameng and Subansiri Frontier Division,” the statement said.

The border outpost of 5 Assam Rifles at Longju in Subansiri Division was later evacuated following an armed clash with the Chinese forces in August 1959, it added. PTI SSG NN

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