GUWAHATI, April 2 - An Assam Rifles personnel, who had escorted the 14th Dalai Lama when he entered India after escaping from his palace at Lhasa, Tibet in March 1959, today met the spiritual leader in what turned out to an emotional moment at the packed Pragjyoti ITA Centre for Performing Arts, Machkhowa here.
Rifleman Naren Chandra Das was 18 years then and the Dalai Lama 23.
�Yes, I can recognise him... he is the same man,� Das, who had donned his uniform for the occasion, said speaking to The Assam Tribune.
As soon as the former Assam Rifles personnel was introduced to him at the function organised as part of the Namami Brahmaputra festival, the Dalai Lama hugged him tight for a long time as he relived his first entry to India 58 years ago.
�I have really enjoyed my visit to Assam. First, because the CM, Governor and other officials looked after me well. Secondly, because I could meet this old member of Assam Rifles who helped me 58 years ago. He must be retired now. I feel very, very happy,� the Dalai Lama exclaimed.
�Looking at you, I just felt I must be old too,� the spiritual leader said in usual humorous tenor.
Das hails from Balipara near Tezpur and had retired from the force in 1982.
�I had joined Assam Rifles in 1957 and was posted at Bum La after my training, with my battalion (5 Assam Rifles) in Tawang. Our men had relieved the other party at Bum La when just a few days later the Dalai Lama and his people arrived,� Das recalled.
Das and his team of around seven-eight men, which had no officers, had acted as the second escort party for the Dalai Lama team, taking over security from the first group of Assam Rifles personnel at Shakti. He and his team escorted the spiritual leader for two days up to Rumlat.
�We did not interact with the Dalai Lama�s group. We just provided them armed security from Shakti to Lungla, and handed them to the next security group,� Das said, with the memories still fresh in his mind.
He was apparently happy that the Dalai Lama showed an instant connection with him when he was introduced on the dais of the programme today.
�The Dalai Lama asked me how I am doing now. I am happy to have met him today,� he added.
The Dalai Lama honoured Das with a traditional shawl.