Padamshree Brigadier B C Pande, “The Father of the Assam Regiment” better known as “Papa Pande” symbolised the definition of Regimental passion and ‘Josh’.
Commissioned in 1940, he had an enviable career in Indian Army and many nation-building assignments. Graduate of Staff College Course in Quetta in 1945-46, he was posted in 1946 as the first Indian Brigade Major in 43 Lorried Brigade, and in 1947 as the first Indian General Staff Officer Grade-1 in 26 Infantry Division. He commanded 3rd Battalion the Assam Regiment from August 53 to September 55 and The Assam Regimental Centre from September 55 to September 58. He was Colonel of the Assam Regiment from November 62 to June 70.
In 1999, when Papa was approximately 86 years old, he decided to visit my unit in Tangdhar during the peak period of Op VIJAY, when shelling by Pakistan was heaviest. He had commanded a Brigade in this area in 1959-61. The respect of people of that region and his impact on them was such that even 40 years after his command tenure, there were over two dozen old men at the battalion’s main gate, who wanted to personally meet him. His determination was evident from the fact that at that age, he chose to travel from Srinagar to my unit on an extremely terrible road.
He was picked up to raise the new Border Security Force (BSF) Training Academy at Tekanpur. Asked by Home Minister as to how much time will he take to raise it, as the land was already acquired. while the minister was expecting couple of months, Papa asked for two days, and invited him to come over on third day to inaugurate. He got the BSF companies and some recruits housed in tents, placed the Indian Tricolour and the BSF flag and on the third day the Academy was inaugurated, as promised by him.
He was the Commandant for 11 years, and is a legendary figure in the BSF, to the extent that one of the gates in the Academy is named as ‘Pande Gate’. In 1999, when Papa Pande was still with us in Jammu and Kashmir, the entire BSF hierarchy enroute wanted to invite him, as they had all been his cadets.
On the day he was to return back, it happened to be a non Road Opening Patrol day, (when roads are not secured), but the BSF volunteered to secure the road all along so that he could have tea with most of their Headquarters all along.
Papa Pande was also appointed as Chairman of “The Pande Committee Report” on East Pakistan, and later Government of India Member in the Peace Mission for Nagaland. For his outstanding contributions, the country honoured him with the award of Padmashree.