Migration, identity and conflict: an enquiry into the politico-demographic landscape of Assam State in India

Kiran Bhairannavar, University of Delhi

The Demographic History of the North Eastern region of India in general and Assam state in particular has witnessed huge population migrations at various points of Time- both in the Colonial and post Colonial past, creating upheavals in the socio-demographic characteristics of the region on Linguistic, Ethnic, Religious and National lines, thus leading to political frictions and emergence of the “Sons-of-Soil” Identity movements which has left far reaching consequences on the making and remaking of the political landscape of Northeastern region and India as a whole. Historically, Assam has been the fastest growing area in the Indian subcontinent, much above the average rate of population growth of India as a whole. Secondly, Muslim population is rising at a faster rate and many districts of Assam have recorded more than 50% rise over the previous census. My paper focuses on the Demographic history of the Indian state of Assam which I argue, has undergone tremendous changes in the basic composition, thus marginalizing the local Assamese population economically, culturally, politically and demographically and creating friction on Linguistic (Assamiya and Na-Assamiya ), Ethnic (Assamese and Tribal population), Religious (Hindus, Assamese Muslims and Non-Assamese Muslims) and National (between Indian nationals and Illegal Bangladeshi migrants) lines. My paper is in two parts. I discuss the demographic history of Assam in part one, dealing with migrations and populations growth of various groups that made Assam their Place of Destination. (Data source: Census of India). In part two, I bring out the response of the “host” society in form of Political conflicts and emergence of Identity movements like the Assam Movement (1979-85) - the landmark in Assam’s Politics, the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and Bodoland Movement etc and the role of the state in handling the crises.

Presented in Poster Session 2