The Assam Accord was signed in 1985 amid growing anti-immigrant sentiments in the northeastern state.
The Assam Accord was signed in 1985 amid growing anti-immigrant sentiments in the northeastern state.(Photo: The Quint)
  • 1. Assam's Tryst With Immigration
  • 2. Enter the All Assam Students Union
  • 3. 1980-1983: The Long Years
  • 4. The Assam Accord of 1985
  • 5. Will Bangladesh Take its Lost Children Back?
Explained: Why All Things NRC Lead to the Assam Accord of 1985

An updated report of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) has listed 2.89 crore people in Assam as citizens, while leaving out 40,07,708 applicants who had applied for the inclusion process.

But why did people living in the northeastern state have to prove the validity of their citizenship and how did those compiling the list decide whether a person is an Indian citizen or not?

The answer to these questions lies in the Assam Accord of 1985, which was signed between the government and certain groups, as an outcome of the social, political and economic conditions that prevailed in the state.

  • 1. Assam's Tryst With Immigration

    Assam’s tryst with migration goes back as early as the 20th century. According to the White Papers on Foreigners’ Issues released by the Assam government in October 2012, the conquest of Assam by the British in 1826, created a large number of “petty jobs.” As the British expanded their base in Assam, these positions were filled by hiring educated Bengali clerks, who were tasked with the upkeep of the empire.

    Around the same time, the discovery of tea in Assam, followed by its growing cultivation, required a large number of low-cost workers. This, the British ensured, by bringing in tribals from Bihar, Odisha, Chotanagpur, Central and United provinces.

    The British wanted to set up agriculture in Assam and readily handed over permits to settlers and even gave tax holidays of two to three years. This led to an influx of migrants from East Bengal, a region with a predominantly Muslim population of Bengali origin. 

    Further, episodes of mass-migration were witnessed in Assam during Partition and finally during Bangladesh’s war of liberation in 1971. It is reported that nearly 10 million people migrated from East Bengal (Bangladesh) to India during this period.

    The combination of these factors eventually led to a surge in the number of Muslims in Assam. According to the 1991 Census, their number grew to 8,20,000 in Assam, which political scientist Myron Weiner claimed, “ was 4,24,000 more than could be accounted for through natural increase.”


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