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Definition of Assamese

A General Definition

ASSAMESE means a language, a culture and all people living in the state called Assam in North East India. Assamese includes people from plains to tribes on hills, irrespective of any religion.

A Political Definition: by "Assam Tribune"

A consensus on the definition of ‘Assamese people’ continues to elude us even after 22 years of the signing of the Assam Accord. While the need for such a definition may seem perplexing to many, the fact is that the peculiar situation in Assam — where the indigenous populace had been under constant threat from infiltrators from Bangladesh for decades — warranted such a necessity. It is under these circumstances that the Assam Accord sought to provide constitutional safeguards to the ‘Assamese people.’ However, the search for the ‘ Assamese’ definition created a raging controversy last year, with divided opinions as to who constitute the ‘Assamese.’ The result is that the issue remains non-conclusive till date. One would also wonder why the State Government did not take up the matter all these years.

The need of the hour, however, is that all the parties, i.e., the different indigenous communities and civil society organisations, sit together with the State Government to hammer out an all-acceptable solution. The prevailing situation – given the unabated influx from across the border – certainly brooks no delay. Since the definition of ‘Assamese’ is central to the provision meant for giving constitutional safeguards to the indigenous people whose existence is under threat from infiltration, all of us must treat the matter in the urgency it deserves. One possible way could be to change the word ‘Assamese’ with ‘Indigenous’, as many of the indigenous communities have openly expressed their reservations – whatever may be the reasons — about being covered under the term ‘Assamese.’ Such a move, therefore, deserves consideration to end the impasse. This, however, leaves out one crucial aspect, that is, what would be the position of the people of non-Assamese (coming from other States) origin who have made Assam their homeland long back, assimilating in the process with the greater Assamese society.

Considering the historical process of assimilation that has been a novel feature of the Assamese society, some organisations have suggested to have a cut-off year on the basis of the National Register of Citizens of 1951. According to this view, persons having their names in the NRC-1951 and their descendants should be treated as ‘Assamese’ or ‘Indigenous’ people so that they can also come under the ambit of the constitutional safeguards. The sad irony of the debate over the definition of ‘Assamese’, however, is that it has laid bare the growing rift in the greater Assamese society, more so when the testing times demanded that we put up a united front in the face of the grave danger posed by the unabated cross-border influx.

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