Amid tensions between India and China, a Special Frontier Force officer Nyima Tenzin died in action during a landmine blast while dominating peaks with his men in the south of the Pangong Lake on August 30 to thwart a PLA move to change the status quo on the ground.
The mortal remains of Nyima Tenzin were laid to rest in Leh on Monday. With Buddhist chants in the backdrop and Indian Tricolour and Tibetan flags fluttering, the mortal remains of the martyr were taken out in a procession through Leh town. People came out in large numbers to pay their final respects to the braveheart. For members of the Tibetan community in Leh this was a moment to renew their resolve.
So who are the Special Frontier Force (SFF)?
The Special Frontier Force (SFF), which is a secret Indian Army unit operating under the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), was formed following the 1962 war against China. Initially, the force comprised of only Tibetans, but later Gurkhas too were inducted. It was originally known as Establishment 22. Its unit is deployed on some major high-altitude fronts of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) along the Chinese border.
The idea of a specialized force of Tibetan refugees in India was first mooted by General Kodandera Subayya Thimayya when he was leading the Indian Army between May 1957 and May 1961, but did not find any support initially. But, during Sino-India war and towards the end of 1962, after hectic lobbying by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) Chief Bhola Nath Mullick and World War II veteran Biju Patnaik, the Jawaharlal Nehru government ordered the raising of an elite commando unit and specialised mountain divisions called ‘Vikas Battalion’, which was later renamed into Special Frontier Force (SFF).
The SFF had participated in some notable operations, which include the 1971 war between India and Pakistan for the liberation East Pakistan or present-day Bangladesh. During the 1971 war between India and Pakistan, SFF battalions were deployed next to the Chittagong Hill Tracts that lie to the southeast of East Pakistan. The SFF were tasked with attacking enemy positions to aid the Indian Army’s operations.
According to a report by The Print, the Vikas battalions, also known SFF, was used in combating communal riots in mid 1970s. They played a critical role in the 1984 Operation Blue Star, when Indian forces laid siege to the Golden Temple in Amritsar to counter Sikh militants.