On 12 June 1989 the 22 Assam Rifles received the warning order from HQ, Directorate General Assam Rifles (DGAR) to move to Sri Lanka as part of Operation (Op) PAWAN under 72 Infantry Brigade as part of Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF). The battle procedure for mobilisation commenced. Deficiency in manpower, vehicles and equipment were made up on war footing.
The challenging assignment entrusted to the 22 Assam Rifles was maintaining security and tranquillity in Trincomalee town, relieving 7 Sikh LI which had built up a formidable reputation in carrying out this difficult and complex task. There was uncertainty in the higher Headquarters about the capabilities of the newly arrived Assam Rifles battalion, but the enthusiasm of the men of 22 Assam Rifles enabled the battalion to eventually surpass the performance of the relieved unit.
A battalion after 18 years: 22 Assam Rifles
22 Assam Rifles was raised four years earlier on 15 May 1985 by Lt Col Raghuraj Singh at Jairampur, Arunachal Pradesh, under Arunachal Range. It was the first battalion to be raised in the force after a gap of 18 years. The unit was declared ‘Fit for War’ after test exercise ‘Op AGNIPARIKSHA’ on 15 December 1985. The battalion underwent pre-induction training at the Counter Insurgency & Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS), Vairengte. Having distinguished itself by achieving high standards of professional competence, it was given the title of “BAIS BAHADUR” by the Commandant, CIJW School.
The battalion moved to Aizwal, Mizoram for its tenure in January 1988. In November 1988, Col Mandhata Singh took over command of the battalion from Col Raghuraj Singh. The unit has the distinction of being the first Assam Rifles Battalion to be deployed in ‘Op Pawan’ as part of IPKF. In July 1989, the unit moved to Sri Lanka and was inducted into the island by the end of August 1989.
On 25 September 1989, the unit took over the responsibility of Trincomalee town from 7 SIKH LI. Its task was maintaining law and order in Trincomalee town. The Battalion was also entrusted with the responsibility of evacuation of the North East People’s Congress (NEPC) Govt of Sri Lanka and friendly groups consisting of 2,500 personnel to the ships anchored at Trincomalee harbour.
The battalion HQ of 22 Assam Rifles was located at Jamaliya. The 22 AR company’s were deployed as under:
• A Coy (company-120 personnel): Mile 4 Post & Mudcove Junction
• B Coy: Magistrate’s Bungalow,
• D Coy: Sirimapura & Love Lane complex
• E Coy: Veeranagar,
• F Coy: GA Residence
Maintaining peace in Sri Lanka
The unit conducted various operations to maintain peace and tranquillity in Trincomalee town. The detailed tasks assigned to 22 Assam Rifles included area domination in Trincomalee town, spot checking and establishing motor vehicles check points at various bottlenecks, security of Trincomalee coastline, joint operations with Army and Sri Lanka Police and evacuation of members of NEPC and friendly groups.
The battalion took part in a special operation from 11 to 18 September 1989 under HQ 72 Infantry Brigade in the jungles of Kottukulam in North Trincomalee district. The major highlights of the operation were: Two major camps of a total of 23 living bunkers, 10 huts, perimeter trenches, cookhouse and a classroom and seven satellite camps of LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) were destroyed. Large quantities of ammunition, explosives and rations were captured. 48 LTTE cadres were eliminated and 25 were injured.
On 19 January 1990, at Orrs Hill, a column of 22 Assam Rifles came under heavy small arms fire in which Riflemen General Duty S C Kalita and Bishan Ram made the supreme sacrifice. The services rendered by the battalion were recognised by conferring nineteen gallantry awards, including a Yudh Seva Medal awarded to the Commandant, Colonel (later Lieutenant General) Mandhata Singh, one Vishist Seva Medal, three President Police Medals, three Governor’s Gold Medal, one Governor’s Silver Medal, three GOC-in-C Commendation Cards and eight DGAR Commendation Cards.
The de-induction of 72 Infantry Brigade commenced on 13 March 1990. In a singular tribute to the measure of confidence reposed in BAIS BAHADUR, the Brigade Commander bestowed on the Battalion, the enviable honour of not only leading the Brigade column as Van Guard but also elements of the Battalion to form part of Rear Guard. On 18 March 1990, the Battalion set sail by MV Harsha Vardhan from China Bay harbour of Trincomalee and docked at Madras harbour on 19 March 1990 after its commendable performance in Sri Lanka.