1. Anti-Foreigner Agitation — How it Began
The All Assam Students Union (AASU) and the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), led by Prafulla Mahanta, had been spearheading Axom Andolan, or the Assam Agitation – an anti-foreigner movement in the state since 1979. Their main demand was that the “illegal immigrants” (Bangladeshis) be taken off the voter list as political parties, they claimed, were winning elections on the basis of illegal electoral rolls.
And that’s how an agitation began that lasted for six years, which culminated in the formation of a state government led by Mahanta in 1985. The movement tended to categorise all Bengalis as “Bangladeshis” – and the groups that felt the direct threat of the movement were the Hindu and Muslim Bengalis.
For the indigenous tribes and the Assamese, the agitation was a way to assert their rights over their land, but it was also the fear of losing jobs to “the other”.
Years later, in an interview to Shekhar Gupta, who was the then Editor of The Indian Express, Mahanta had said: