Assamese people

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Assamese people
Assamese couple in traditional attire.jpg
Assamese youth in traditional Bihu attire
Total population
c. 15.3 million[1]
Regions with significant populations
🇮🇳 Assam15,095,797[3]
🇮🇳 Arunachal Pradesh53,951[4]
🇮🇳 Meghalaya39,628[5]
🇮🇳 Bihar2,087[6]
🇮🇳 Uttar Pradesh10,356[7]
🇮🇳 Delhi8,573[8]
🇮🇳 Punjab4,090[9]
🇮🇳 Karnataka9,871[10]
🇮🇳 Tamil Nadu2,594[11]
🇮🇳 Kerala5,796[12]
🇮🇳 Maharashtra12,842[13]
🇮🇳 Gujarat3,935[14]
🇮🇳 Rajasthan2,877[15]
🇮🇳 Haryana4,204[16]
🇮🇳 Jammu and Kashmir8,340[17]
🇮🇳 Nagaland17,201[18]
🇮🇳 Manipur2,453[19]
🇮🇳 Tripura2,129[20]
🇮🇳 West Bengal7,342[21]
Assamese Bengali letter A (red).png Assamese (and dialects; KamrupiGoalpariya)
Mostly: Om.svg Hinduism

(Patch of the 45th Infantry Division (1924-1939).svg TraditionalVishnu.jpg Ekasarana Dharma)

Minority: Allah-green.svg IslamChristianitySymbol.svg:ChristianityKhanda.svg Sikhism[23]
Related ethnic groups
Bodo-Kachari people, Indo-Aryan peoples, Tibeto-Burman and Tai peoples of Assam

The Assamese people are a socio-ethnic linguistic[24] identity that has been described at various times as nationalistic[25] or micro-nationalistic.[26] This group is often associated with the Assamese language,[27] though the use of the term precedes the name of the language.[28] It has also been used retrospectively to the people of Assam before the term "Assamese" came into use.[29] They are an ethnically diverse group formed after centuries of assimilation of Austroasiatic, Tibeto-Burman, Indo-Aryan and Tai populations.[30] The total population of Assamese speakers in Assam is nearly 15.09 million which makes up 48.38% of the population of state according to the Language census of 2011.


The Government of Assam faced difficulties in defining Assamese people for Assam Accord, due to linguistically and culturally heterogeneous population. Though there is a political dispute over the definition of Assamese people, in general; the people belonging to the state of Assam are referred sometimes as Assamese people or more appropriately as People of Assam.[31][32] The lack of a definition has put stumbling blocks in implementing clause 6[33] of the Assam Accord, an agreement signed by the activists of the Assam Movement and the Government of India in 1985.[34] 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 finalise the definition in March 2007.[35][36] To address the clause 6 issue, AASU had announced a definition on 10 April 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.[37][38][39]

The name "Assamese" is though of British colonial coinage. Assamese is an English word meaning "of Assam"[40] though not all people of Assam today are Assamese people.


Assamese as a nationalistic identity was seeded when the Ahom kingdom came under repeated attacks from the Bengal Sultanate in the early 16th century and the people banded together under Suhungmung (1497–1539) to resist a common enemy. The kingdom not only succeeded in resisting the invasion, but a general pursued the invaders to the Karatoya river and freed most of the Kamrup and Kamata regions.[41]

The process of identity formation sped up during the rule of Pratap Singha (1603–41) when the Mughals began repeated incursions from 1615 and the Battle of Saraighat in 1671; and finally the Battle of Itakhuli (1682 CE) when the Ahoms took direct control over western Brahmaputra valley.[42] Many Muslim soldiers and professionals who had accompanied invading armies or immigrated peacefully since the 13th century, including those from the 16th century, were given power and eminence by the Ahom kings, and they in turn helped the Ahoms in repelling the Mughals.[43] This was also the time when the Assamese language progressively replaced the Ahom language in the court and outside.[44] As a result of the Ahom kings increasingly patronizing Hinduism alongside the proselytizing activities of Ekasarana Dharma since the 16th-century—a large section of the Bodo-Kachari peoples converted to different forms of Hinduism in the 17th-18th century and a composite Assamese identity comprising caste-Hindus, tribals and Assamese Muslims began to form.[45]

On the eve of British colonialism, the writers of that time included everyone in the Brahmaputra valley into the group called "Assamese".[46]


Religions practiced among Assamese people
Religion Population % Ref.
Assamese Hindus Om.svg 10,000,000 64.88 [47]
Assamese Muslims Star and Crescent.svg 4,000,000 25.95 [48]
Assamese Christians Christian cross.svg 1,400,000 9.08 [49]
Assamese Sikhs Khanda.svg 12,000 0.09 [50]
Total (worldwide) 15,412,000 100 [51]


The issue of illegal influx has a 40-year 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 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.

According to an Assam government white paper, between 1985 and 2012, 2,442 illegal immigrants from Bangladesh had been expelled from the state. On 1 September 2020, when Assam final NRC list was released, It was found that 19,06,657 people names have been excluded (which is about 6% of the state population), out of total 3.11 crore state population.[52][53]

Demographic changes[edit]

As per as census of India report 2011, around 15,311,351 Assamese speaking population lives in India, thus constituting 1.26% of the nation's population.[54]

Historical Assamese Population in Assam
1951 4,971,229—    
1961 6,784,271+36.5%
1971 8,905,544+31.3%
1991 12,958,088+45.5%
2001 13,010,478+0.4%
2011 15,095,797+16.0%
Source: [55]

As per 2011 census, Assam state had around 31.2 million people, out of which (15.1 million) were Assamese speakers comprising 48% of the state population, while (9.36 million) were Bengali speakers comprising 30% of the state population, and 6.73% spoke Hindi and its dialects.[56][57]

Decadal percentage of Assamese speakers in Assam[58]

Year Percent Increase
1951 56.29% -
1961 57.14% +0.85%
1971 59.53% +2.39%
1991 57.81% -1.72%
2001 48.81% -9%
2011 48.37% -0.44%

According to reports, in 1971 the number of Assamese-speaking populace was 60.89% in the census, with a population of (8.9 million), higher than their numbers in 2011. While the Bengali and Hindi-speaking population were at 19.70% (2.8 million) and 5.42% (7.9 lakhs).[59][60] The Assamese speakers constituted 48% of the State population according to the 2011 Census, and it is predicted that the 2021 Census (currently under way) will reveal the percentage to dip lower below 40%.[61] However, If Bengali majority Barak valley region is excluded, then the percentage of native Assamese speakers in mainland Assamese majority Brahmaputra valley region of Assam is about 55.65 per cent.[62][63]

In January 2019, the Assam's peasant organisation Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) claimed that there are around 20 lakh (2 million) Hindu Bangladeshis in Assam.[64] According to the census data, the number of Hindu immigrants is difficult to ascertain and have been largely exaggerated.[65]

Census of India between (2001-2011) have shown that Bangladeshi Muslim population grows 5-7% in Assam specially in the bordering districts over the past decade.[66] In February 2020, the Assam Minority Development Board announced plans to segregate illegal Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants from the indigenous Muslims of the state, though some have expressed problems in identifying an indigenous Muslim person. According to the board, there are 1.3 crore (13 million) Muslims in the state, of which 9 million are of Bangladeshi origin.[67][68] Allegedly the number of 'illegal immigrants' in Assam of all religions is about 1 crore (10 million) and are scattered across the length and breadth of the state.[69][70] A report reveals that out of total 33 districts in Assam, Bangladeshis dominate almost 15 districts of Assam.[71]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mikael Parkvall, "Världens 100 största språk 2007" (The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007), in Nationalencyklopedin
  2. ^ "Abstract of speakers' strength of languages and the mother tongues - 2011" (PDF). Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  3. ^ "Assam Population 2020/2021".
  4. ^ "Arunachal Pradesh Population 2020/2021".
  5. ^ "Meghalaya Population 2020/2021".
  6. ^ "Bihar Population 2020/2021".
  7. ^ "Uttar Pradesh Population 2020/2021".
  8. ^ "Delhi Population 2020/2021".
  9. ^ "Punjab Population 2020/2021".
  10. ^ "Karnataka Population 2020/2021".
  11. ^ "Tamil Nadu Population 2020/2021".
  12. ^ "Kerala Population 2020/2021".
  13. ^ "Maharashtra Population 2020/2021".
  14. ^ "Gujarat Population 2020/2021".
  15. ^ "Rajasthan Population 2020/2021".
  16. ^ "Haryana Population 2020/2021".
  17. ^ "Jammu and Kashmir Population 2020/2021".
  18. ^ "Nagaland Population 2020/2021".
  19. ^ "Manipur Population 2020/2021".
  20. ^ "Tripura Population 2020/2021".
  21. ^ "West Bengal Population 2020/2021".
  22. ^[permanent dead link]
  23. ^ "Mission roots brings Assamese Sikhs to Punjab". The Times of India. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  24. ^ "As an socio-ethnic linguistic community, Assamese culture evolved through many centuries in a melting pot syndrome." (Deka 2005:190)
  25. ^ "All this suggests that Assamese nationalism was a post-British phenomenon. As an ideology and movement it took shape only during the second half of the 19th century, when such questions as the preservation and promotion of the mother-tongue, jobs for the sons of the soil and concern over colonial constraints on development, began to stir Assamese minds." (Guha 1984:54)
  26. ^ " Assamese micro-nationalism began in the middle of the nineteenth century as an assertion of the autonomy and distinctiveness of Assamese language and culture against the British colonial view of Assam as a periphery of Bengal." (Baruah 1994:654)
  27. ^ Saikia, Yasmin (2004). Fragmented Memories: Struggling to be Tai-Ahom in India. Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0822386162. the group that now identifies as Tai–Ahom were historically seen as 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.
  28. ^ "Assamese language and literature played a major role in forming the Assamese cultural mind even before they came to be known as Assamese." (Deka 2005:192)
  29. ^ "Yet once the community adopted Assamese as its name, even their ancient language started to be referred to as Assamese." (Deka 2005:192)
  30. ^ Yasmin Saikia (9 November 2004). Fragmented Memories. ISBN 978-0822333739.
  31. ^ "Assamese People" definition rocks Assembly, The Hindu". Special Correspondent. 1 April 2015. Retrieved 15 September 2017.
  32. ^ "Meet the Axomiya Sikhs". The Tribune. Chandigarh. 24 March 2013.
  33. ^ Clause 6 of Assam Accord: "Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social and linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people."
  34. ^ Assam dithers over Accord, The Telegraph, 15 July 2004.
  35. ^ 1.40 lakh aliens deported since 1971 Archived 29 May 2007 at the Wayback Machine, The Assam Tribune, 27 March 2007
  36. ^ Move to define Assamese people Archived 29 May 2007 at the Wayback Machine, The Assam Tribune, 31 March 2007
  37. ^ Hussain, Wasbir (24 April 2000). "Of natives and aliens". The Hindu.
  38. ^ AASU joins 'Asomiya' debate, The Sentinel, Guwahati, 1 April 2007
  39. ^ AASU flays Barman, Prafulla Mahanta, The Assam Tribune, 1 April 2007
  40. ^ (Grierson 1903:393). Also, -ese is the English suffix with etymological roots in the Latin -ensis—"[u]sed to form adjectives and nouns describing things and characteristics of a city, region, or country, such as the people and the language spoken by these people." wikt:-ese.
  41. ^ "The idea of a composite Assamese or Asomiya 'jati' or nationality took shape during the later part of the Ahom rule. This process had started during the first Muslim invasion from neighbouring Bengal in the 16th century when the people were brought under an Ahom or Assamese banner against the common enemy. Not only were the Ahom successful in repelling the Muslim invasions, but by the 1530s the Ahoms had freed the greater part of Kamrup and Kamata from Muslim occupation and "extended their dominion right up to the Karatoya in Murshidabad in the west and almost to close proximity of Dacc". (Misra 1999:1264)
  42. ^ "During the rule of the Ahom monarch, Pratap Singha (1603-41) consolidation of the Assamese community was further sped up because of the common fight against Mughal incursions and encroachment on Assam territory. The Ahom victory over the Mughals in early 1616 was followed by the defeat of the Mughal army led by Ram Singh in the Battle of Saraighat in March 1671" (Misra 1999:1264)
  43. ^ "The Ahom rulers gave positions of power and eminence to the Assamese Muslims and the latter took active part in resisting successive Mughal attempts to overrun the region. The assimilation of this segment of Muslims into Assamese society was so complete that the historians who accompanied the Mughal expeditions into Assam noted that they were more Assamese than Muslim." (Misra 1999:1264)
  44. ^ "Incidentally, literate Ahoms retained the Tai language and script well until the end of the 17th century. In that century of Ahom-Mughal conflicts, this language first coexisted with and then was progressively replaced by Assamese (Asamiya) at and outside the Court." (Guha 1983:9)
  45. ^ (Misra 1999:1264)
  46. ^ (Misra 1999:1264–1265)
  47. ^
  48. ^ "Assam news: 40 lakh Assamese-speaking Muslims may get 'ethnic tribe' tag | Guwahati News - Times of India".
  49. ^
  50. ^ "Cut off from roots, Assamese Sikhs seek quota, council". 29 March 2016.
  51. ^ "Assamese language".
  52. ^ "Assam final NRC list released: 19,06,657 people excluded, 3.11 crore make it to citizenship list".
  53. ^ "Over 19 lakh excluded, 3.1 crore included in Assam NRC final list". 31 August 2019.
  54. ^
  55. ^ › k_...PDF Assamese Language in the Light of Census - Asian Population Association
  56. ^ "Voting on religious lines, Bengali speakers may help BJP, Congress win in Assam". 21 April 2019.
  57. ^ "C-16 Population By Mother Tongue". Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  58. ^ › k_...PDF Assamese Language in the Light of Census - Asian Population Association
  59. ^ "Assamese speaking population decreasing alarmingly". The Sentinel. 30 June 2018. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  60. ^ "Assamese Speaking Population Declines To 48.38 %". Pratidine Times. 29 June 2018. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  61. ^ "Assamese speakers in Assam: An insecure future?". 10 April 2021.
  62. ^[bare URL]
  63. ^
  64. ^ "20 lakh Bangladeshi Hindus to become Indians if Citizenship Bill is passed: Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti". The Economic Times. 17 January 2019. Retrieved 3 November 2020.
  65. ^ "Citizenship Amendment Act: BJP chasing ghosts in Assam; Census data shows number of Hindu immigrants may have been exaggerated - India News, Firstpost". Firstpost. 18 December 2019. Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  66. ^ Kumar, Manan (1 September 2014). "Bangladeshi Muslim population grows 5-7% in Assam and West Bengal". DNA India. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  67. ^ Hazarika, Mytithili (12 February 2020). "BJP wants to segregate Assamese Muslims from Bangladeshi Muslims, but some ask how". The Print. Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  68. ^ PTI (10 February 2020). "Assam plans survey to identify indigenous Muslim population". The Hindu. Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  69. ^ "TIME8 News | 1 Crore Illegal Bangladeshis' Name Included In Assam NRC: Shiladitya Dev". TIME8 News. 31 August 2019. Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  70. ^ "1 Crore Illegal Bangladeshis Residing In Assam: Dipanka Nath". Pratidin Time. 17 January 2020. Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  71. ^ "Hari Shankar Brahma report reveals illegal Bangladeshis dominates 15 out of 33 Assam districts, massive threats to indigenous people | Indiablooms - First Portal on Digital News Management".