Assamese youth in traditional dress
|13,257,272 (2011 census)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|India||13,187,237 according to (2011 census)|
|Bhutan||54,268 (2011)|
|Kamrupi • Goalpariya)|
Majority: Hinduism 75.52%Islam 21.34% • Christianity 2.14% • Sikhism 1%
|Related ethnic groups|
|Bengalis, Tai and Sino-Tibetan-speaking peoples|
The Assamese people are the native people of the state of Assam. This subgroup is often associated with the Assamese language. They are a physically diverse group formed after years of assimilation of Mongoloid and Indo-Aryan races. The total population of native 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, so the communities that speaks "Assamese" as first language are typically considered as Assamese socially and linguistically in the state. These Assamese speakers traditionally include Hindu groups like Ahoms, Assamese Brahmins, Kaibarta, Kalitas, Koch Rajbongshis, Sutiyas, Moran and Motok and Assamese Muslims, Assamese Sikhs and Christians (mostly Tea tribes). According to 2011 census, Out of 13,257,272 Assamese people, majority of 10,013,013 or 75.52% Assamese people were Hindus, largest minority of 2,830,072 or 21.34% Assamese people were Muslims, and very few 414,187 or 3.14% Assamese people were Christians and Sikhs by religion. 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 indigenous 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 . All the indigenous communities, races, breeds, castes, tribes comprise the Greater Assamese community.
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.
Illegal immigrants from Bangladesh has been a key issue in Assam. Most of the immigrants settle in Assam due to economic reasons and their population is estimated to be between 7-8 million. The issue of illegal influx has a 30-year-old history, starting with the anti-foreigner agitation that began in 1979 under the leadership of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU). In 1985, after hundreds of people died in course of what turned out to be independent India’s biggest mass uprising, the AASU and other agitation groups signed an agreement with the Centre called the Assam Accord. It fixed 25 March 1971 as the cut-off date for detection and expulsion of illegal migrants, meaning anyone found entering India after this date were to be detected and sent back. In the three decades that followed, only a few thousand illegal Bangladeshi migrants have been expelled by successive state governments, which included the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), a party that was formed with the mandate of freeing Assam of illegal aliens. Many of these ‘expelled’ people are believed to have come back. According to the 2011 Census, the Muslim population in Assam, the most populated state in northeastern India, is 34.22 percent out of a total of 31.2 million. The Muslim population in Assam rose by 3.3 percent since the last Census in 2001. Interestingly, the population growth of Muslims in Assam is staggeringly higher than in Jammu and Kashmir, where it increased by 1.3 percent between 2001 and 2011. The national average growth of Muslim population is 0.8 percent. The reality is that between 1985 and 2012, according to an Assam government white paper, only 2,442 illegal immigrants from Bangladesh had been expelled from the state. The central home ministry said in 2004 that it estimated a total of five million illegal immigrants in Assam.
Illegal immigration is by far the biggest issue in the Assam primarily because sneaking into Assam from Bangladesh is fairly easy. The size of the Brahmaputra varies through the year, making it almost impossible to fence the border. Thus, a large part of the district is unfenced, making it easy for illegal migrants along the border to sneak into Assam. As per sources, it was found out that it was ridiculously easy for a foreign national to acquire Indian citizenship by submitting fake documents or by paying as little as Rs. 10,000 to acquire one.
Shri Indrajit Gupta, the then Home Minister of India stated in the Parliament on 6 May, 1997 that there were 10 million illegal migrants residing in India. Quoting Home Ministry/Intelligence Bureau source, the 10 August 1998 issue of India Today has given the breakdown of these illegal migrants by States - West Bengal 5.4 millions, Assam 4 millions, Tripura 8 millions, Bihar 0.5 million, Maharashtra 0.5 million, Rajasthan 0.5 million and Delhi 0.3 million making a total of 10.83 millions.
Shri E.N. Rammohan, DG. BSF, who is an IPS officer of Assam cadre, in his report of 10 February, 1997 has stated
|“||"As Additional S.P. in 1968 in Nowgaon, I did not see a single Bangladeshi village in Jagi Road or in Kaziranga. In 1982, when I was posted as DIGP, Northern Range, Tezpur, five new Bangladeshis Muslim villages had come up near Jagi Road and hundreds of families had built up their huts encroaching into the land of the Kaziranga Game Sanctuary"||”|
He mentioned that in 1971 the large island of Chawalkhoa comprising 5000 bighas of land was being cultivated by Assamese villagers from Gorukhut and Sanuna and went on the state,
|“||"In 1982 when I was posted as DIGP, Tezpur, there was a population of more than 10,000 immigrant Muslims on the island. The pleas of the Assamese villagers to the District Administration to evict those people from the island fell on deaf ears. Any honest young IAS, SDO of Mangaldoi Sub-division who tried to do this, found himself transferred. In 1983 when an election was forced on the people of Assam… the people of the villages living on the banks of the Brahmaputra opposite Chawalkhoa attacked the encroachers on this island, when they found that they had been given voting rights by the Government. It is of interest that Assamese Muslims of Sanuna village attacked the Bengali Muslim encroachers on this island. I am a direct witness to this."||”|
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