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The Assam movement was a combination of cultural pride and economic backwardness. Explain.

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The Assam Movement, started in 1979 to 1985, was a movement to retain the Assamese cultural pride, which was largely threatened by the growing illegal migration from Bangladesh. Assam, during that period, faced political instability in the state, collapse of state governments, imposition of President's Rule, violence, agitation, frequent general strikes and civil disobedience campaigns crippling the state administration and normal life.
The large scale migration of people in the Northeast states represented a unique problem as it posed challenge the local community members who believed that it would threaten their culture and would also bring about exploitation of resources.

a. The outsiders were seen as encroachers on scarce resources like land as they would exploit resources for their benefit and would also try to avail political dominance in the region.

b. The Assamese suspected that there were huge numbers of illegal Bengali-Muslim settlers from Bangladesh. They felt that unless these foreign nationals are detected and deported, they would reduce the indigenous Assamese into a minority, threatening their identity.

c. Apart from that, the region was already characterised by widespread poverty and unemployment, primarily due to overall neglect of the region, historical reasons and also due to lack of political will.

d. Assamese also held illegal immigrants responsible for backwardness of the region as it deprived the original inhabitants of the region of the benefits and accounted for their underdevelopment.

e. In 1979, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), a students’ group led an anti- foreigner agitation.

f. The movement was against illegal migrations, domination of Bengalis and other outsiders as well as against faulty voters’ register that included the names of lakhs of immigrants.

g. The movement demanded that all outsiders who had entered the State after 1951 should be sent back.

h. It resulted in widespread violence in the state as it involved huge blockade of trains and oil supply from Assam refineries.

i. It was in the year 1985 that the Rajiv Gandhi-led government entered into negotiations with the AASU leaders, leading to the signing of an accord in 1985.

j. By virtue of this accord, the Central government agreed to deport those foreigners who migrated to Assam after the Bangladesh war.

k. The accord also brought an end to the long agitation and restored normalcy in the state.

l. It resulted in the AASU, and the Asom Gana Sangram Parishad organised themselves into a regional political party called Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and soon formed a government in the state of Assam.

m. Though the accord did bring about a change in the political situation, but the problem of illegal immigration continued to threaten the distinctive culture and identity of the North-eastern states.


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