Post Mortem

Why Assamese are angry?

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 12/21/2019 11:13:06 AM IST

 (From previous issue)

In one case, the population in the 1971 census recorded an increase as high as 34.98 per cent over the 1961 figures and this increase was attributed to the influx of a very large numbers of persons from the neighbouring countries. 

The influx has become a regular feature. I think that it may not be a wrong assessment to make on the basis of increase of 34.98 per cent between the two censuses, the increase that is likely to be recorded in the 1991 census would be more than 100 per cent over the 1961 census. In other words, a stage would be reached when that State may have to reckon with foreign nationals who may, in all probability, constitute a sizable percentage, if not the majority of the population in the State. Another disturbing factor in this regard is the demand made by the political parties for inclusion in the electoral rolls of the names of such migrants who are not Indian citizens, without even questioning and properly determining their citizenship status.” 

The spark that lighted the fire of the Assam Agitation was the sudden demise of Lok Sabha MP Hiralal Patwari in 1978, which necessitated holding of a Bye-election in the Mangaldai constituency. During the preparation of the Electoral rolls it was noticed that there was huge increase in the numbers of voters. The Assam agitation leaders asserted that close scrutiny of the census reports of 1951 to 1971 and the voters’ list up to 1977 showed that the number of foreign nationals has gone up to 40 lakhs. Of these it was suspected some 13 lakhs had got their names included in the voters’ list of 1977. The Assamese boycotted the Parliament election on the ground that names of lakhs of “foreign nationals” were in the voters list. Holding the elections prior to deleting the names of the foreign nationals from the voters’ list, the agitation leaders insisted was like putting the cart before the horse. 

After the Bangladesh War, the Government of Assam agreed to rehabilitate Five Lakh Bengali refugees. Which other state in India had done so the Assam Agitation leaders questioned. The influx was not only changing the socio-cultural fabric but putting immense pressure on the economy of Assam. The decadal variation of population of Assam and India as a whole makes the picture clear, in 1951-61 and 1961-71 the growth in Assam’s population was 35.0% and 34.7% respectively against the all India figures those two decades were 21.6% and 24.6% respectively. In these two decades the food production was only 14 per cent with the cropped area remaining constant. The rate of production of rice and all other agricultural goods were lower than national average. In 1980, the production of rice in Assam was 963 kg per hectare lower than Meghalaya at 1,066 kg per hectare. The number of educated unemployed was increasing, in 1975 there were roughly 15 lakhs unemployed, which increased to 20 lakhs by 1978. The Registrar General of India on the basis of sample registration over the period 1974-76 estimated the rate of natural increase of population in Assam at 1.6 percent per annum against 2 percent for the country as a whole. The figures clearly establish that the 3.5% annual growth rate of population in Assam since 1961 is largely due to influx of foreign nationals. Is there any basis for the all pervading apprehension of the Assamese being swamped by the aliens? Analysing the population trends for the 70-years from 1901 to 1971, the Census Report of 1971 came to the following conclusion: “Taking the whole population of 3.29 million (3,289,680) of Assam in 1901 as ‘indigenous’ and applying the all-India rate of increase of 129.67% from 1901 to 1971 her population in 1971 would be 7.56 million (7,555,329) instead of 14.63 million (14,625,152)”.2 While Assam’s population grew bigger, its land mass became smaller with the creation of the tribal union territories and states by 1972. The 1981 Census could not be conducted in Assam due to the mass Agitation. It has been estimated with the 1971 recorded population growth rate of 34.94% against the national average of 24.80%, the population of Assam in 1981 would be 19.74 million (19,743,955). While calculated at the national average growth rate of 24.80% the Assam population in 1981 should be 18.25 million. An excess population of 1.48 million, suspected to be of alien origin. As per 2001 Census Assam’s population was 2.67 Crores (26,655,528) and in 2011 it was 3.12 Crores (31,205,576). It is now estimated that the Assam population in 2019 to 3.55 Crores. The population growth rate of India in 2010-19 is 1.2%, while in the same period the population growth rate of Assam is a double digit figure!

After the 1985 Assam Accord, the Assamese has moved ahead and has learned to live with the fact that illegal immigrants are there in the state. They were willing bear the burden all the refugees and immigrants that has settled in the state from 1951 to 1971. But, the political leaders of Assam do not learn from history and history repeats itself. Now, with the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 the Assamese fear that they would be swamped by the aliens and reduced to the status of minority in their own homeland, similar to the fate of the aboriginal Tibeto-Burman Tripuris, losing their culture, language, land, economic and political rights. The larger fear is that with the ripple-effect spreading across North East India, the illegal immigrants tide soon engulfing the neighbouring tribal states bordering Assam, notwithstanding the constitutional safeguards or a piece of paper like the Inner Line Permit. 


Dipanjon Konwar

Reference: C.S. Mullan, Census of India, 1931, Vol-III: Assam, Part-I Report, p.p. 49, 50, 51. 

Census of India 1971, Series-3 Assam, Part I-A, General Report, p.47

About the writer: The writer works independently as a Quality Management consultant and has implemented ISO Quality Management System, Environmental Management System and Occupational Health and Safety Management System in scores of service and manufacturing organisations. He teaches Human Resource Management at post-graduate level in Gauhati University, a visiting faculty at Assam Administrative Staff College and trainer with many other organisations. He is a regular contributor to The Assam Tribune and other digital news media.

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