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The Assamese people are a socio-ethnolinguistic 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 a physically 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 13 million which makes up 48.38% of the population of state according to the Language census of 2011.
According to a 2011 census, out of (13,257,272) Assamese people, a majority of 10,013,013 or 75.52% Assamese people are Hindus, the largest minority of 2,830,072 or 21.34% are Muslims, and 414,187 or 3.14% are Christians and Sikhs by religion.
The Government of Assam faced difficulties in defining Assamese people, 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.
Assamese as a nationalistic identity emerged in the pre-colonial times during the later part of the Ahom rule, especially during the 17-th century when the Ahoms repelled the Mughal empire and consolidated its rule in western Brahmaputra valley. The first usage of the English word "Assamese" is noted in colonial times; based on same principle as Sinhalese, Nepalese and Canarese, derived from the Anglicised word "Assam" with the suffix -ese, meaning "of Assam." In contrast, Western Assam from early to pre-colonial times was known as "'Kamarupa" (instead of Asama) and considered a politically, socially and culturally separate unit from the rest of the state. In the 17th century, the Ahom kingdom was known as the "Kingdom of Acham" to the Mughals; and later, to the British. In 1682, the eastern Kamrup was annexed by Ahom kingdom and the expanded kingdom continued to be called as the "Kingdom of Assam" by Europeans till 1821, when the Ahom kingdom became part of the Burmese Empire.
After Assam became part of British India, the newly constituted province came to be known by its new anglicised name Assam after its largest constituent, and the name Assamese / Asamiya came to be associated with the Assamese language which was erstwhile known as Kamrupi.
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.
In the four decades that have followed, a few thousand illegal Bangladeshi migrants have been expelled by successive state governments, and many of these 'expelled' people are believed to have come back.[unreliable source?]
According to an Assam government white paper, between 1985 and 2012, 2,442 illegal immigrants from Bangladesh had been expelled from the state.
^"As a socio-ethnic linguistic community, Assamese culture evolved through many centuries in a melting pot syndrome." (Deka 2005:190)
^"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)
^" 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)
^Saikia, Yasmin (2004). Fragmented Memories: Struggling to be Tai-Ahom in India. Duke University Press. ISBN978-0822386162. 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.
^"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)
^"Yet once the community adopted Assamese as its name, even their ancient language started to be referred to as Assamese." (Deka 2005:192)
^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."
^"The idea of a composite Assamese or Asomiya 'jati' or nationality took shape during the later part of the Ahom rule". (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)
^Sukalpa Bhattacharjee, C Joshua Thomas,2013,Society,Representation and Textuality:The Critical Interface It deals with the expansion of the Mughal Empire in Bengal, Kamrup and Assam.
^Satish Chandra (2005), Medieval India:Fro Sultanate to the Mughals Part - II They had support of many Hindu Rajas of Jessore, Kamrup (Western Assam), Cachar, Tippera, etc.
^Peter Jackson,2003,The Delhi Sultanate: A Political and Military History,P. 141, "No body sought to emulate Mohammad b. Bakhtiar, who had returned a broken man from a disastrous campaign through the Upper Brahmaputra region, possibly into the region of Assam the Muslims called Kamrup or Kamrud
^Goswami, Upendranath (1970),A Study on K?mr?p?: A Dialect of Assamese, Page iii
^Bowrey, Thomas (1663) A Geographical Account of Countries around the Bay of Bengal, ed Temple, R. C., Hakluyt Society's Publications. In this account, Bowrey describes the death of Mir Jumla, who had occupied the capital of the Ahom kingdom in the 17th century thus: "They lost the best of Nabobs, the Kingdome of Acham, and, by consequence, many large privileges."
^"In the Battle of Itakhuli in September 1682, the Ahom forces chased the defeated Mughals nearly one hundred kilometers back to the Manas river. The Manas then became the Ahom-Mughal boundary until the British occupation." (Richards 1995, p. 247)
^"The Kingdom of Assam, where it is entered from Bengal, commences on the north of the Berhampooter, at the Khonder Chokey, nearly opposite to the picturesque estate of the late Mr Raush at Goalpara; and at the Nagrabaree Hill on the South", Wade, Dr John Peter, (1805) "A Geographical Sketch of Assam" in Asiatic Annual Register, reprinted (Sharma 1972, p. 341)
^Baruah, S. L. (1993), Last Days of Ahom Monarchy, P.225
^"The Ahoms were never numerically dominant in the state they built and, at the time of 1872 and 1881 Censuses, they formed hardly one-tenth of the populations relevant to the erstwhile Ahom territory (i.e, by and large, the Brahmaputra Valley without the Goalpara district.)" (Guha 1983:9)
^Sukumar Sen, Grammatical sketches_of Indian languages_with comparative_vocabulary and texts, P31
Barua, Sanjib (1994). "'Ethnic' Conflict as State--Society Struggle: The Poetics and Politics of Assamese Micro-Nationalism". Modern Asian Studies. 28 (3): 649-671. doi:10.1017/S0026749X00011896. JSTOR313047.
Deka, Harekrishna (2005). "The Assamese Mind: contours of a landscape". India International Centre Quarterly. 32 (2/3): 189-202. JSTOR23006027.
Guha, Amalendu (1984). "Nationalism: Pan-Indian and Regional in a Historical Perspective". Social Scientist. 12 (2): 42-65. doi:10.2307/3517093. JSTOR3517093.
Misra, Udayon (1999). "Immigration and Identity Transformation in Assam". Economic and Political Weekly. 34 (21): 1264-1271. JSTOR4407987.