|Regions with significant populations|
|India||13,187,237 according to (2011 census)|
|Bhutan||54,268 (2011)|
|Kamrupi • Goalpariya)|
Majority: HinduismIslam • Christianity • Sikhism
The Assamese people are a subgroup of the people of Assam. This subgroup is often associated with the Assamese language. The total population of Assamese speakers in Assam is nearly 13 million which makes up 48.8% of the Assam's population according to the Language census of 2001. Though there is a political dispute over the definition of Assamese people in Assam, speakers of "Assamese" as first language are typically considered as Assamese socially and linguistically in the state. This Assamese speakers traditionally include Hindu groups like Ahoms, Assamese Brahmins, Moran and Motok, Kaibarta, Kalitas, Koch Rajbongshis, Sutiyas, and Assamese Muslims, Assamese Sikhs and Christians (mostly Tea tribes). Besides this, a sizeable population of recognized tribal groups like Deori, Sonowal–Kachari, Thengal–Kachari speaking Assamese as the first language also contribute to the Assamese language speaking group. Historically, the definition of the "Assamese people" has remained in a state of flux and this has had strong political repercussions in Assam, especially in the colonial (1826–1947) and post–colonial (after 1947) periods.
The lack of a definition has put stumbling blocks in implementing clause 6 of the Assam Accord, an agreement signed by the activists of the Assam Movement and the Government of India in 1985. Since a legal definition is important to provide "constitutional, legislative and cultural" safeguards to the Assamese people, the Government of Assam had formed a ministerial committee to finalize the definition in March 2007. To address the clause 6 issue, AASU had announced a definition on April 10, 2000 which was based on residency with a temporal limit: All those whose names appeared in the 1951 National Register of Citizens and their progenies should be considered as Assamese. Difficulty in definition is rooted in the heterogeneous nature of inhabitants of the Assam state.
The first usage of the English word "Assamese" is noted in colonial times; based on same principle as Sinhalese, Nepalese and Canarese, derived from the Anglicised word "Assam" with the suffix -ese, meaning "of Assam."
In contrast, Lower Assam (or the Western Assam region) in pre–colonial times was known as "Kamrup" (instead of Asama, and considered a politically, socially and culturally separate unit from the rest of the state.
In the 16th century, the Ahom kingdom was known as the "Kingdom of Acham" to the Mughals; and later, to the British. In 1682, the eastern Kamrup was annexed by Ahom kingdom and the expanded kingdom continued to be called as the "Kingdom of Assam" till 1821 when the Ahom kingdom became part of the Burmese Empire.
Just as "Assam" was associated with the Ahom kingdom till the 19th century, "Asamiya" was used for the subjects and soldiers of that kingdom who belonged to different ethnic and linguistic backgrounds and not solely to the Ahom community.[not in citation given]
After Assam became part of British India, the newly constituted province came to be known as Assam after its largest constituent, and the name Assamese / Asamiya came to be associated with the Assamese language erstwhile known as Kamrupi.
According to Yasmin Saikia, "the group that now identifies as Tai–Ahom were historically seen as the Assamese people. However, the term ethnic Assamese is now associated by the Indian government at Delhi with the Assamese speaking Indo–Aryan group (comprising both Hindus and Muslims) of Assam. The latter group is the majority people of Assam, while the Tai–Ahom people were a dominant minority during the Ahom Rule.