The Brave Escort: 5 Assam Rifles and the Journey of Dalai Lama into India In 1959

Dalai Lama's Escape Reverberates Through History: 5 Assam Rifles' Courageous Stand Remembered
The Brave Escort: 5 Assam Rifles and the Journey of Dalai Lama into India In 1959
The Brave Escort: 5 Assam Rifles and the Journey of Dalai Lama into India In 1959
By Prasenjit Deb

In a stirring tribute to the historic bond between India and Tibet, the valiant actions of the 5th Battalion of the Assam Rifles in safeguarding His Holiness the Dalai Lama during his perilous journey into India in 1959 have been commemorated. This saga of bravery and compassion unfolded amidst the backdrop of the Tibetan uprising against Chinese occupation, as recounted in Dom Moraes's seminal work "The Revolt in Tibet".

As the Chinese crackdown intensified, the Dalai Lama, a beacon of hope for the Tibetan people, embarked on a treacherous escape from Lhasa. His journey was fraught with danger, traversing the rugged Himalayan terrain, until he found refuge near the McMahon Line, close to the Indian border.

In response to the Dalai Lama's plight, the Indian government swiftly deployed the 5 Assam Rifles to ensure his safe passage into India. With unwavering resolve and dedication, the Assam Rifles played a pivotal role in escorting His Holiness across the border, braving harsh weather conditions and the constant threat of interception by Chinese forces.

On March 31, 1959, His Holiness was warmly received by the 5th Bn The Assam Rifles at the Frontier Post of Chuthangmu in the Kameng Division, marking the beginning of a journey to safety. The Assam Rifles' singular determination saw them escort the Dalai Lama through Tawang, Bomdila, and Tezpur, ensuring his well-being at every step of the way.

Following the Dalai Lama's forced exile to India, the Assam Rifles continued their humanitarian efforts, escorting approximately 12,000 Tibetan refugees through the Kameng Frontier Division. Their selfless service and unwavering commitment reflected the highest ideals of duty and honor.

In a poignant gesture of gratitude, the Dalai Lama presented his personal weapons to the 5 Assam Rifles, which are proudly displayed at the Assam Rifles Museum in Shillong. His Holiness also bestowed his warm blessings upon the soldiers, expressing hope for their continued success and well-being.

However, the Dalai Lama's escape did not come without repercussions. China's reaction was swift and aggressive, with troops moving to the India-China border and claiming vast areas of Indian territory in retaliation. The border outpost of 5 Assam Rifles at Longju in Subansiri Division was evacuated following an armed clash with Chinese forces in August 1959.

Despite the challenges and geopolitical tensions that ensued, the legacy of the 5 Assam Rifles' escort of the Dalai Lama remains a testament to the enduring spirit of friendship and humanitarianism between India and Tibet. The bond forged in 1959 continues to resonate, with the Assam Rifles affectionately known as "The Dalai Lama Battalion", and their annual visits to seek the blessings of His Holiness underscoring the deep reverence and respect they hold for him.

The Brave Escort: 5 Assam Rifles and the Journey of Dalai Lama into India In 1959
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