The force was raised mainly to guard the alluvial plains of Assam from the unruly tribes inhabiting the surrounding hill tracts.
There are currently 46 battalions of Assam Rifles under the control of the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs and they perform many roles including the provision of internal security under the control of the army through the conduct of counterinsurgency and border security operations, provision of aid to the civil power in times of emergency, and the provision of communications, medical assistance and education in remote areas.
- In times of war, they can also be used as a combat force to secure rear areas if needed. Since 2002 it has been guarding the Indo–Myanmar barrier as per the government policy “one border one force”.
- The present-day Assam Rifles can trace its origins back to a paramilitary force known as Cachar Levy which was established by the British in 1835 in the Assam region.
- The Assam Rifles boast of being the oldest paramilitary force. With approximately seven hundred and fifty men, this force was formed as a police unit to protect settlements against tribal raids and other assaults as British rule slowly moved towards the northeast parts of India.
- Despite problems with equipment and training, the contribution of this force in opening the region to administration and commerce was nevertheless quite significant and over time they have become known as the “right arm of the civil and [the] left arm of the military” in the region.
- Over the course of its history, the Assam Rifles and its predecessor units have served in a number of roles, conflicts and theatres including World War I where they served in Europe and the Middle East, and World War II where they served mainly in Burma.
- During World War I, men from what was then known as the Assam Military Police were part of the Indian forces that fought in Europe and the Middle East.
- Over three thousand men from the force were provided to the Gorkha regiments of the Indian Army in this time, earning seventy-six gallantry awards during the conflict including seven Indian Order of Merit awards and five Indian Distinguished Service Medals.
- These men performed with such distinction that the name Assam Rifles was assigned in 1917 as recognition of their part in the war.
- During World War II, the role of the Assam Rifles evolved once more as they were called upon to undertake even more varied tasks due to their status as both a police and military organisation.
- Following the end of the war, the five Assam Rifles battalions became part of the city police under the Assam Inspector General of Police.
- After independence, however, the Indian government assigned the Assam Rifles its own Director General. As the numbers of the force and the number of battalions gradually increased, the rank of the force commander was also upgraded until now it is that of Lieutenant General.