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India: Information on the Hindu-Muslim conflict in the Assam province; conflict between Assamese and Ohamian speakers

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 April 1990
Citation / Document Symbol IND4755
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, India: Information on the Hindu-Muslim conflict in the Assam province; conflict between Assamese and Ohamian speakers, 1 April 1990, IND4755, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Muslim immigrants have drifted into the province of Assam since partition (1947) in search of arable land, and a number of them were deported to Eastern Pakistan (Bangladesh) during the early 1960s [ Nyrop R.F. et al. Area Handbook for India, (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1975), p.159.]. By 1971, 24 percent of the population of Assam was Muslim [ Ibid.]. Since 1979, the renewed influx of Muslim migrants from the delta of Bengale has led to a violent rejection of the newcomers by the local Assamese community [Michel Clévenot, L'état des religions dans le monde, (Paris et Montréal: La Découverte/Le Cerf/Boréal, 1987), p.255.]. According to one estimate, about 4,000 people have died in Assam in religious violence [ Jack Donnelly and R.E. Howard, eds. International Handbook of Human Rights, (New York: Greenwood Press, 1987), p.145.]. A table showing the number of communal incidents in Assam from 1968 to 1989 is attached [ Mushirul Hasan, "Indian Muslims Since Independence: In Search of Integration and Identity", Third World Quarterly, April 1988, vol.10, no.2, p.820.].

An agreement aimed at resolving religious strife stemming from the influx of Muslim migrants was signed in August 1985 between Hindu activists (who later formed the Asom Gana Parishad now in power) and the Indian government [ "By-elections and Cabinet Reshuffle in Assam - AASU Agitation - Assassination of UMF President - Alleged Formation of New Extremist Political Party - Demands for Autonomous Hill District State", Keesing's Record of World Events, vol.32, October 1986, p.34680.]. The agreement was to deny voting rights for ten years to Muslim immigrants who arrived between 1961 and 1971, and to deport those who immigrated later [ Bard-Anders Andreassen and Asbjorn Eide, eds. Human Rights in Developing Countries 1987/88, (Oslo: Akademisk Forlag, 1988), p. 214.]. The Northeast of India is reportedly in a permanent state of emergency and tensions run high in Assam where extremist groups are flourishing [ Ibid.]. During the January 1988 elections in Assam, violence rose over the delays in implementing the Assam accord of August 1985 ["Nagaland State Elections - Assam-Nagaland Border Tension - Congress Defeat in Assam By-election - Tribal Agitation for Separate State in Assam", Keesing's Record of World Events, vol.34, March 1988, p.35775.]. During 1988, extremist activities were numerous in Assam, and Hindu-Muslim clashes occurred throughout Northern India [ Alan J. Day and Verena Hoffman, The Annual Register: A Record of World Events 1988, (London: Longman, 1989), p.309.]. In July 1988, Assam's Chief Minister offered his resignation to protest against continuous violence in the state ["Assam", Keesing's Record of World Events, vol.35, no.5, May 1989, p.36694.]. In August 1989, four days of violence involving Bodo tribesmen in Assam led to the death of over 150 persons ["Violence in Punjab, Kashmir and Assam", Keesing's Record of World Events, August 1989, vol.35, no.7-8, p.36851.]. The Hindu newspaper from Madras later implied that reports of violence were circulated by the government of Arunachal Pradesh in order to de-stabilize the Asom Gana Parishad government [Ibid.].

No information on the Ohamian language is currently available to the IRBDC in Ottawa. A comprehensive encyclopedia on the languages of the world does not list that language [Kenneth Katzner, The Languages of the World, (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1975).]. A language with a similar name (Ahom), however, is reportedly used in parts of Assam for religious purposes [ The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, (Macropaedia), vol.22, (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1989), p.593.]. Many other groups have in fact adopted Assamese as their first language [ The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, (Macropaedia), vol.21, (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1989), p.124.]. The Ahoms are a tribe that ruled Assam (and gave it its name, A and O being interchangeable in most languages of Eastern India, and S being replaceable with H) [ Ibid, p.125.]. The Ahoms reportedly no longer use their own language and now speak Assamese except for religious purposes [ The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, (Micropaedia), vol.1, (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica), p.168.].

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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