Assam Movement

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Assam agitation
A Students Rally during the Assam Movement.jpg
A Students Rally during the Assam Movement
Caused by
MethodsRioting, demonstrations, civil disobedience
Passage of the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act
Parties to the civil conflict

The Assam Movement (or Assam Agitation) (1979-1985) was a popular movement against illegal immigrants in Assam.[1] The movement, led by All Assam Students Union (AASU) and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP), developed a program of protests and demonstrations to compel the Indian government to identify and expel illegal, (mostly Bangladeshi), immigrants and to protect and provide constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to the indigenous Assamese people. The Nellie massacre and Khoirabari massacre were cases of extreme violence. The unrest officially ended on 15 August 1985, following the Assam Accord, which was signed by leaders of AASU-AAGSP and the Government of India.[2] During its existence hundreds (855 or possibly 860 as submitted by AASU) of people sacrificed their lives in the hope of an "Infiltration Free Assam".[3][4]

The agitation leaders formed a political party, Asom Gana Parishad. It came to power in the state of Assam in the Assembly elections of 1985 and later in 1996.


Assam was affected by an illegal influx of Muslims from East Bengal beginning in the 1920s. These illegal immigrants encroached on lands used as grazing reserves. The Muslim population increased rapidly, supported by the communal policies of the Assam Provincial Muslim League under the leadership of S.M.Sadullah only aggravated the situation. The concern for rapidly increasing refugee flows arriving from East Bengal and later newly formed East Pakistan in the 1940s, created tension among the Indigenous Assamese people and many tribes in the state.[5] The first influx of Hindu refugees in considerable number was in October 1946 following the Noakhali riots.[6] Between 1948 and 1971, large scale migrations of all faiths came from Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) to Assam.[7] By May 1949 the number of immigrants reached two-and-half lakhs, increasing to 2,74,455.[6]

Student leaders in 1979 came out in fierce protest demanding detention, disenfranchisement and deportation of illegal immigrants.[8] 1978 Hiralal Patwari died, requiring a by-election in the Mangaldoi Lok Sabha Constituency to fill his seat. During the election, observers noticed that the number of registered voters had grown dramatically. AASU demanded that the elections be postponed until the names of foreign nationals were deleted from the electoral rolls. The Assam Agitation developed thereafter.

Annual Arrival of Refugees in Assam in 1946–1951[9]
Place of Origin Year Number
East Bengal 1946 8,593
East Bengal 1947 42,346
East Bengal 1948 41,740
East Bengal 1949 33,138
East Bengal 1950 1,44,512
East Bengal 1950 (Jan.&Feb.) 3,479
West Pakistan - 647
Total 2,74,455


On 27 November 1979, AASU-AAGSP called for the closure of all educational institutes and picketing in state and central government offices. Mass picketing was arranged in front of all polling offices where candidate filed their nominations, in the first week of December 1979. No candidates were allowed to file nomination papers in the Brahmaputra valley. On 10 December, the last date for submitting the nomination papers, was declared as a statewide bandh. The government proclaimed a curfew at different parts of the state, including the major city of Guwahati.[citation needed]

At Barpeta, then IGP K.P.S. Gill led the police force in escorting Bagam Abida Ahmed to file nomination papers; they attacked protestors. Khargeswar Talukdar, the 22-year-old general secretary of Barpeta AASU Unit, was beaten to death and thrown into a ditch next to the highway at Bhabanipur. Talukdar was honoured by the Assam Movement as its first Martyr.[10]

On 7 October 1972, while leading a procession from Nagaon to hojai in support of a bandh called by the All Assam Students Union, Anil Bora Was beaten to death at Hojai by people who opposed the bandh as well as the Movement.[11]

Subsequently, violence spread across the Brahmaputra valley. In a stunning incident on 18 February 1983, during the Nellie massacre, a mob of indigenous Assamese killed 2,191 suspected immigrants, in 14 villages in Nagaon district.[12]


The parliament passed the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act (IM-DT) in October 1983 and began to implement it in Assam. Negotiations took place between the government and AASU-AAGSP during the later parts of 1984 and first part of 1985. In May 1985, formal talks started and the Home Secretary led the central government team. Several rounds of talks took place during May-July 1985. Initially the Assam coalition wanted immigrants from the 1961-71 waves to be disfranchised and dispersed to other areas of the country. By August 1985, they had agreed to a new cutoff date of January 1966; immigrants who had entered illegally after that were to be detected, deported and disfranchised for 10 years.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Baruah, Sanjib (1999). India Against Itself: Assam and the Politics of Nationality. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 115. ISBN 081223491X.
  2. ^ "Implementation of Assam Accord".
  3. ^ "Martyrs of Assam Agitation | Implementation of Assam Accord | Government Of Assam, India". Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  4. ^ "Assam: Prafulla Mahanta not to campaign for AGP to protest alliance with BJP". Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  5. ^ "Illegal Migration into Assam". Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Wayback Machine" (PDF). 16 October 2017. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  7. ^ Deka, Dr Kaustubh. "Bengali Muslims who migrated to Assam in 1871 are not 'illegal Bangladeshis'". Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  8. ^ Iyer, Sukanya (14 August 2018). "Must Read: NRC For India— A Paradigm Shift from Vote Bank Politics to "India for Indians"". The Fearless Indian. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  9. ^ Census of India, 1951, Vol. XII, Part I (I-A), 353.
  10. ^ 1 Feb, Kangkan Kalita | TNN | Updated; 2019; Ist, 10:40. "Kin of 76 killed in Assam stir return awards | Guwahati News - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  11. ^ "Tale of two villages & their martyr duo".
  12. ^

Further reading[edit]

  • Weiner, Myron (June 1983), "The Political Demography of Assam's Anti-Immigrant Movement", Population and Development Review, Population Council, 9 (2): 279–292, doi:10.2307/1973053, JSTOR 1973053

External links[edit]