The Assam Movement

History of Struggle for Self-determination of Various Tribes of Assam, especially Karbis and Bodos Discussing women’s lives in the conflict zone of Assam presupposes an understanding of the history of insurgency in the North East in general, and Assam in particular.



The whole of the North East has been the homeland of various insurgent groups since long. Assam is basically the land of various tribes, each   with their own history and culture; they are the daughters and sons of the soil. The historic Assam movement started in 1979 as a result of what they perceived to be the Central Government’s over-centralized character, its neglect and step-motherly attitude towards the North-East. They said that the Indian state had been using the natural resources of this region but it has remained devoid of any development till date. In the meantime, after the 1971 war between East Pakistan and West Pakistan, in which India helped East Pakistan, and Bangladesh was formed, there was a huge influx of Bangladeshis to this region, especially to Assam. It was in 1979, under the leadership of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) that the six-years-long Assam movement started with civil disobedience. At last, after huge sacrifices of the Assamese people, including women, in 1985 the Assam Accord was signed between the leaders of the movement (AASU and Gana Sangram Parishad) and the Government representatives in presence of the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

When the AASU movement resorted mainly to forms of mass protests and their movement assumed the form of mass insurgency in 1983, the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), which was an outfit formed in 1979 by rebels dissatisfied with the relatively peaceful protest, opposed the 1985 deal of AASU with the Central government and took to armed activities against the AGP (rechristened AASU) rule. One faction of ULFA has entered into a ceasefire with the Central government and the other faction has been much weakened due to lack of active popular support and counter-insurgency operations of the state agencies.

Since identity issues have been at the core of these struggles, some tribal groups were not satisfied with the peaceful mode of movement and also with the accord. Though Assam is basically the land of indigenous tribes, yet in every sphere, it was the people of Aryan origin, non-tribes who had an upper hand. The indigenous people of this region, who till now had a deep-rooted sense of marginalization, began to develop a sense of being exploited by the non-tribals.

In the past decades, the movements for ethnic autonomy have become stronger. Some people began the struggle for more autonomy within the present administrative setup while others demanded separate land. Though the autonomous districts in Assam have been formed under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian constitution, the ethnic people feel that their aspirations are yet to be addressed.

The Bodos feel that they have been neglected, exploited, alienated and discriminated for decades and the Bodo-inhabited districts of Kokrajhar, Darrang, Lakhimpur and Kamrup are among the least developed. The Bodo peasants were shifting cultivators, who had migrated from one place to another, in search of fertile land, and that is why they were not granted permanent land rights by the British Government during the colonial era. Due to the tremendous growth of population, they gradually lost their land. The Bodos are classified as a plain tribe, and they are demanding separate homeland incorporating territories of western Assam. This demand raises conflicts because many other ethnic groups living in this region claim themselves to be indigenous. With such a complex regional ethnic composition, the struggle continues to raise many complex questions that remain unanswered.

In 1967, the ABSU (All Bodo Students’ Union) was formed. When the Assam movement under the leadership of AASU, began in 1979, the ABSU opposed it. The newly formed Government (Assam Gana Parishad ) did not try to find solutions under the leader of Upendra Nath Brahma. When ABSU failed to bring the other plain tribes for a new united movement, they gave up the vague demand for tribal “home land”, and instead placed the demand of full-fledged state of “Bodo land”.

On February 20, 1993, the Bodo accord was signed between the ABSU, BPAC and the Central and State Governments for the end of armed movement and for establishing the Bodo autonomous district council. As there was confusion over the question of territorial jurisdiction, so the Govt. of Assam unilaterally demarcated and declared the boundary, but both the ABSU and the BPAC rejected it. The militant outfit BLT was formed. Another militant organization NDFBwas also formed. BLT declared unilateral ceasefire in 1999 and on February 10, 2003, a new accord was signed to create “Bodoland Territorial Council” (BTC). NDFB went on fighting an armed struggle for a separate and sovereign Bodo nation. The conflict between NDFB and BLT led to many massacres. In the meantime, Bengalis, Adivasi and Konch Rajbongshis formed separate outfit for their security called the KLO (Kamatapur Liberation Organisation).

Karbi Anglong was created as a district in 1951. One year later it was given the status of Autonomous district council. While the people of Karbi Anglong were demanding an autonomous state, carving out two hill districts of Karbi Angolng and the N C Hills (Dima Hasao), a feeling of betrayal was prevalent. The leaders of Karbi Angolng and N C Hills decided to stay away from forming a separate state, so as not to merge with Meghalaya. In 1986, the ASDC was formed. Due to the existence of Article 244(A) of the Indian Constitution, there was the possibility of creating another state including Karbi Anglong and N C Hills.

The Karbi tribe comprises of 63.36% of total hill tribe population in Assam. In 1989, the ASDC won in the Council election. The organization assured other ethnic groups of Karbi Anglong that their rights would be preserved. Then came the attack on the Hindi-speaking people in 2000 by militant outfit UPDS. In this way violence started in Karbi Anglong.

In March 2004, members of Karbi militia killed six Kuki ginger cultivators, in return the KRA killed 30 Karbi farmers. The UPDS demanded “full restoration of land rights to the tribal traditional authority- The Sarthe, full political security, complete control over the law, order and justice, complete control over the natural and human resources of the territory, complete authority of the all financial and developmental matters (and direct access to the financial and economic authority of India).”

Though the demand for “Hemprek” – the home land has been going on in the hope for a pristine homeland, yet today after several rounds of ethnic clashes and military operations, the demand for autonomous state has lost its strength.

There are other militant outfits like KPLT, KNV etc. The RNHPF was formed in 2012 for protection of Rengma Nagas from KPLT attack. Their demand is for a regional council for the Rengma Nagas of KA (Karbi Anglong).

Mayank Rai

Hi, My name is Mayank Rai. I found that Blogging is an easiest way to share your knowledge with everyone & learn something new from there. facebook telegram

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post