|c. 15.3 million|
|Regions with significant populations|
|🇮🇳 Arunachal Pradesh||53,951|
|🇮🇳 Uttar Pradesh||10,356|
|🇮🇳 Tamil Nadu||2,594|
|🇮🇳 Jammu and Kashmir||8,340|
|🇮🇳 West Bengal||7,342|
|Assamese (and dialects; Kamrupi • Goalpariya)|
|Mostly: Hinduism Islam• •:Christianity• Sikhism|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Bodo-Kachari people, Indo-Aryan peoples, Tibeto-Burman and Tai peoples of Assam|
The Assamese people are a socio-ethnic linguistic identity that has been described at various times as nationalistic or micro-nationalistic. This group is often associated with the Assamese language, though the use of the term precedes the name of the language. It has also been used retrospectively to the people of Assam before the term "Assamese" came into use. They are an ethnically diverse group formed after centuries of assimilation of Austroasiatic, Tibeto-Burman, Indo-Aryan and Tai populations. 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. 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 finalise the definition in March 2007. 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.
The name "Assamese" is though of British colonial coinage. Assamese is an English word meaning "of Assam" 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.
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. 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. This was also the time when the Assamese language progressively replaced the Ahom language in the court and outside. 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.
On the eve of British colonialism, the writers of that time included everyone in the Brahmaputra valley into the group called "Assamese".
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.
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.
|Source:  |
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.
Decadal percentage of Assamese speakers in Assam
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). 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%. 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.
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. According to the census data, the number of Hindu immigrants is difficult to ascertain and have been largely exaggerated.
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. 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. 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. A report reveals that out of total 33 districts in Assam, Bangladeshis dominate almost 15 districts of Assam.
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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.
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- "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)
- "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)
- "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)
- "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)
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