Badlu Ram and The Assam Regiment: The Legend that Lives On | Abhinaba Sarkar

Abhinaba Sarkar

If one ever gets a chance to witness a kasam parade, or the passing-out parade, of the new recruits enlisting into the Assam Regiment, at Happy Valley, Shillong, one thing that will forever be etched in the mind, apart from the many happy faces of the recruits and their well-wishers, would be the entire passing out batch singing together and dancing to a particular song.

That song would be “Badlu Ram ka Badan”.

For the benefit of those who have never heard it, the lyrics,  provided with the translation and relevant information:

“Ek khubsurat ladki thi…

“There was a beauty

Usko dekh ke Rifleman…

Seeing whom the Rifleman

Chindi khichna bhul gaya…

Forgot to pull the ‘chindi’ (the safety catch on a gun)

Havildar Major dekh liya…

The Havildar Major (equivalent to a Sergeant Major of UK/US usage, now obsolete) saw him

Usko pitthu lagaya…

Sends him on a ‘pitthu’ (punishment run with a sack “pitthu”)

Badlu Ram ek sipahi thaa…

Badlu Ram was a soldier

Japan War me mar gaya…

Who died in the “Japan” War (the Second World War)

Quartermaster smart thaa…

But our Quartermaster (Officer in charge of supplies) was “smart”

Usney ration nikala…

He got us rations

Badlu Ram ka badan zamin ke nichey hain…

Badlu Ram’s body is now buried

Badlu Ram ka badan zamin ke nichey hain…

Badlu Ram ka badan zamin ke nichey hain…

Toh humein uska ration milta hain…

Yet we continue to eat rations drawn in his name

Saabaaashh… hallelujah…

Saabaaashh (roughly equivalent to “Bravo!” )… hallelujah…

Saabaaashh… hallelujah…

Saabaaashh… hallelujah…

Toh humein uska ration milta hain…

Yet we continue to eat rations drawn in his name”

 

This song is based on a wartime legend, dating back to the Second World War.

Picture1
Assam Regiment marching contingent, adjudged as the “Best Contingent”, in Republic Day celebrations, 2016.

The Assam Regiment was raised on June 15, 1941, as a direct result of the perceived Japanese threat over eastern India and Burma. As destiny would have it, the Regiment, drawn from the nimble hill-tribes of Assam, Nagas, Kukis and others, would go on to fight in what was to be the “Greatest Battle of Second World War”, the Battle for Kohima and the Battle of Imphal.

The Assam Regiment was the only one thing that stood between the Japanese Fifteenth Army and India. In what was to be the fiercest land battle in the history of war, the Assam Regiment was preparing to face a baptism of fire. The frontline was to reduce itself to a tennis court’s edges. Later the Supreme Allied Commander in South East Asia, Earl Mountbatten, would call it “The British-Indian Thermopylae”, because of the sheer amount of blood, steel and fire spent by both the sides.

Badlu Ram was a Rifleman in the 1st Battalion of the Assam Regiment, that was deployed for the defence of the area in, and around, Kohima, in the early days of 1944. Burma had already fallen to Lieutenant General Mutaguchi’s Fifteenth Army, making Kohima and Imphal the lynchpins of Allied war effort, the furthest line of Allied advance in Southeast Asia.

Badlu Ram, however, never lived to see much action against the enemy. A few days after his coming into the Front, he lost his life to an incoming Japanese bullet. He died, but the spirit lived on.

These were days of rudimentary wireless communication between the formation commanders at the back and the forward commanders based in the Front. Coupled with the persistent bad weather, it was mostly useless. Testifying this, a British Major, who served in the Chindit Offensive, who later appeared in a novel said, “The bloody wireless, would give you nothing but more and more bad news, and would fail exactly at the moment where you need it most.

The Quartermaster of Badlu Ram’s company, failed to relay the information of his death to the headquarters. So with each air-drop that happened afterwards there was always ration for an extra man. The “smart” Quartermaster however refrained from allowing the men to indulge in the extra supplies. This uptightness was soon to be rewarded.

The Fifteenth Army grew in its might, bringing along an entire anti-aircraft brigade, to the Front. The last line of supply was now reduced to a trickle. And by the dawn of April 6th, the town of Kohima lay in siege. So crippled was the state of troops, Major Boshell, who commanded ‘B’ Company of the 1st Royal Berkshires, recorded in his diary “Water was short and restricted to about one pint per man per day”.

Meanwhile, in the late Rifleman Badlu Ram’s Company, things were a little less grim. The extra man’s rations that the Quartermaster had stashed away came to their rescue. Thus the grateful men, sang in praise for the first time for their fallen comrade, Badlu Ram, who now lay peaceful in his grave, yet continued to serve his brothers-at-arms, and of course, the “smart” Quartermaster.

That song would be later a part of Regimental traditions as “Badlu Ram ka Badan”.

The Battle of Kohima and Imphal was voted as the “Greatest Battle of the Second World War” by a popular vote in Britain, in 2013, trumping the more “famous” ones like the ones in D-Day Normandy, El Alamein, Monte Cassino and over Britain. The siege of Kohima lasted till the 22nd June, a total of seventy-seven days, until the conclusion of the Battle of the Tennis Court, which will probably be the single largest testimony to the Indian contribution to the Allied War Effort.

rgt-assam
Assam Regiment’s logo.

The Assam Regiment carries with pride in its insignia the motto “Asam Vikram” “असम विक्रम” meaning “Peerless Valour” and the mascot, the one horned rhinoceros, earning the name “Brave Rhinos” . Their motto is also a curious play on words, “Asam” is also the Indian native pronunciation of the Assam, giving it another meaning as the “Valour of Assam”. The multi-lingual Regiment was the first to adopt Roman Hindi, as its language, which later became the trend all over the Army. Also unique is the greeting “Tagra Raho”. Coined by Maj. Gen. S.C. Barbora, during his time as a Company Commander, and later as the Colonel of the Regiment, it became a part of Regimental tradition. Practiced in the form of a question and answer, “Tagra ho?”, usually by a superior, and a reply “Tagra hai, sa’ab!”, is one of the many examples of camaraderie between the soldiers of the Regiment.

The Regiment began with a strength of  three Battalions at the time of Independence and it now has become a twenty-two-Battalion strong force with fifteen regular Battalions, three Rashtriya Rifles battalions, three Territorial Army battalions and one battalion of Arunachal Scouts. Since Independence, Battalions of the Regiment have participated in the Sino-Indian War of 1962 and all the conflicts with Pakistan. The Regiment was awarded a battle honour for its tenacious defence at Chhamb in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971. Two of its Battalions, 4 ASSAM “Formidable Fourth” and 7 ASSAM “Striking Seventh”, have had the privilege of being part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka and 1 ASSAM “Always First”, 15 ASSAM “One Five” and 10 ASSAM “Thundering Tenth” have the unique distinction of being part of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cambodia (UNTAC), Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) respectively. The regiment has been decorated with 1 Ashoka Chakra, 2 Maha Vir Chakra, 3 Kirti Chakras, 5 Vir Chakras, 1 Ashoka Chakra (Class III) (now called Shaurya Chakra), 14 Shaurya Chakras, 2 Padmashris, 5 Ati Vishisht Seva Medals, 1 Yudh Seva Medal, 51 Sena Medals and 9 Vishisht Seva Medals.

The Regiment continues to serve India with distinction, pride and honour, living up to its motto “Asam Vikram” “असम विक्रम”  both in times of war and peace.

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