The state of Assam ranks 17th among all the other states of India in area whereas it ranks 15th according to population statistics. The literacy rate is upto 72%. Situated just below the eastern Himalayan foothills, it is surrounded by the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya, which together with Assam are known collectively as the seven sisters. Assam is almost equivalent to the size of Ireland or Austria. Assam shares international borders with Bhutan and Bangladesh and the international borders of China and Myanmar are within 80 to 100km.
Until 1826, the northeast region was not politically a part of Indian empires. However, in 1817 Burma started invading Assam region in a period of aggressive expansion. Ahom was at that point weak due to massive rebellions under a feudal Paik system.
Burma took over Assam and alarmed the East India Company which had its core base in the neighboring Bengal. To put an end to Burmese ambitions, East India Company fought Burma and took out Assam, Manipur and rest of the northeast through the Treaty of Yandabo.
Eventually they found out way to plant tea and also discovered oil. Assam became an economic magnet and the company flooded outsiders into the region.
In 1947, the Sylhet region of Assam voted in a referendum to join east Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and the exit of Bengali speaking Muslims put the demographics back in favor of the Assamese. Things looked good. Unlike the West Pakistan, the eastern side didn’t have an immediate population exchange. The population started slowly emigrating and most of them ended up in Assam. Initially it was the Bengali Hindus who were entering due to the Bangladesh war between Pakistan and India. Government took them as they had nowhere else to go. But they didn’t do a good job of resettling them elsewhere.
By 1970s, even Bangladeshi Muslims started emigrating, this time for jobs and education. This put massive strain on Assam and things began to crack. Assamese wanted an answer from the central government on what is happening with this unmitigated disaster.
By late 1970s, people’s patience all across India ran out. Not knowing the full extent of the issue, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi pushed for an early assembly election in 1983. The state was in President’s rule for a while and Assamese didn’t want an election until the issue of voting rights is sorted out for the “foreigners”. The incoming new wave of Banglas had caused such a elevated anger that even the older immigrants – Bengali Hindus and Nepalis who moved decades earlier bore the brunt of massacre.
Massacre of the order India had never seen since 1947. In just 6 hours of 18th February 1983, as many as 5000 were massacred [5x more than the 2002 Gujarat riots] Nellie massacre. This was just couple of years following the ghastly Mandai massacre around the same issue. Since that time Bengali immigrants have been massacred plenty of times.
Unfettered, illegal immigration:
There is a massive amount of immigration of rural Banglas who have drastically altered the demographics of states like Tripura and Assam. Many tribals are really afraid that they would be totally marginalized in their ancestral land. It is a legitimate fear of the separatists and our government has not fully addressed it. Influx of immigrants in such a large numbers may render the locals as minority, they fear.
The immigration issue primarily came to a nasty turn in 1983 when Indira Gandhi refused to disenfranchise the illegal migrants. Angered at this “betrayal”, thousands were massacred in one of the goriest of violence in India’s free history. Some people died in these communal clashes between Hindus and Muslims while others were killed when security forces opened fire on crowds. Many women and children died in the rice growing area, with bodies found in streams. Sixteen villages were burnt down and up to 6,000 people were left homeless, with thousands living in a refugee camp. Thousands of people fled from Assam to the neighboring state of West Bengal and to the north-eastern area of Arunachal Pradesh to escape the violence.
Assam and the Northeast in General is surrounded by countries with which India doesn’t have good relationship with. In those long and porous borders, many external interferences come through. It is landlocked and the geography makes it hard to trade with rest of India. Thus, it is poorer than it should be.
Integration with rest of India:
Various Indian Prime Ministers have historically ignored the northeast India for the most part. Not enough investments were made.
Poorly made laws:
The locals have had to bear draconian laws such as AFSPA as a punishment to ask for freedom. No one would dare to impose an equivalent of AFSPA in Gujarat or Andhra Pradesh or UP or Bihar. However, when it comes to Assam or Manipur India don’t care. Army solution has made the matters wrose.
Issues of Northeast seem too distant to Indians:
Things concerning the region are seldom discussed and seldom understood. Indians outside of the region most often take them for granted.
During the 1962 Sino-Indian War, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru issued a very controversial statement regarding the advancements of Chinese forces and falls of areas. He said, “Huge Chinese armies have been marching in the northern part of NEFA. We have had reverses at Walong, Se La and today Bomdila, a small town in NEFA, has also fallen. We shall not rest till the invader goes out of India or is pushed out. I want to make that clear to all of you, and, especially our countrymen in Assam, to whom our heart goes out at this moment.” The veteran Congress leader Bedabrata Barua said Nehru was almost weeping when he issued the statement in his choked voice. The residents of Assam still remember how people felt let down by New Delhi. A local interpreted the speech as being left for lunch after the speech.
The same sense of frustration has survived till today. The people of Assam has since beginning rejected and resisted the influx of outsiders, and so is the case for India. The people of Assam have had to bear Draconian laws such as AFSPA, as is the case of Kashmir. Such draconian laws are always the last resort for Indian forces when they are unable to cope with the resistance from locals.
The local and mainstream political parties have only concern to extract votes from illegal immigrants so that they can enjoy the lust for power over the indegenous people. The state of Assam has since the beginning been a golden pearl for intruders. The British found tea and oil whereas India alongside the former, found an opportunity to control the material-rich state.
There are several separatist movements in Assam, the most notable of them being United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) which is also considered as The “Father”. The organization demands a separate independent indegenous Assam. United Kuki Liberation Front (UKLF) and Kuki National Front (KNF) demand a separate Kuki homeland. National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) wants a separate “Bodo” homeland. Dima Haolim wants a soverign states for Dimasa Tribe (Chachar, Nagaon, Karbialong). Kamatpur Liberation Organization (KLO) wants a separate homeland for “Kamatpur” tribe, Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Dhubri and Goalpara. Other movements include Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), Dima Halom Daogah (DHD), Karbi National Volunteers (KNV), Rabha National Security Force (RNSF), Koch-Rajbongshi Liberation Organization (KRLO), Adivasi Cobra Force (ACF), Karbi People’s Front (KPF), Tiwa National Revolutionary Force (TNRF), Bircha Commando Force (BCF), Bengali Tiger Force (BTF), Adivasi Security Force (ASF), All Assam Adivasi Suraksha Samiti (AAASS), Gorkha Tiger Force (GTF), Barak Valley Youth Liberation Front (BVYLF), Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA), Muslim United Liberation Front of Assam (MULFA), Muslim Security Council of Assam (MSCA), United Liberation Militia of Assam (ULMA) and Islamic Liberation Army of Assam (ILAA).
India blames Pakistan for inciting proxy wars in North East, Indian Army Chief Bipin Rawat issued a statement in 29th of March, 2018, saying, “A planned immigration is taking place because of our western neighbour. They will always try and ensure that this area is taken over, playing the proxy dimension of warfare.” There are however several other separatist organizations but India from time to time tries to control the organizations by using military force and draconian laws such as AFSPA. Despite such ill-fated measures, the so-called Democratic state of India has failed to provide the just and fundamental rights to the indegenous people seeking freedom, ultimately prompting them to take up arms as a last resort against illegal Indian occupation.