Political Parties in Assam
⦁ Indian National Congress.The state unit of the INC is called the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee or APCC. It was formed in the year 1921 and is headquartered at Rajiv Bhavan, Guwahati. At the time of its formation in the state, KuladharChaliha was the president. Currently, the Chairperson of the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee is BhubaneshwarKalita. It has many ancillary wings, such as the National Students’ Union of India, the Assam Pradesh Youth Congress, the Assam Pradesh MahilaCongress, and the Indian National Trade Union Congress. On the political spectrum, the INC is believed to be centre-left.
⦁ BJP.Assam’s State President of BJP is SarbanandaSonwal, who is also an ex-MP. Mass organizations of the party in different fronts are AkhilBharatiyaVidyarthiParishad (student wing), BharatiyaJanataYuvaMorcha (youth wing), BJP MahilaMorcha (women’s wing), and BJP KisanMorcha (Peasant’s wing). In a latest development, RituparnaBaruah, the All Assam Students’ Union’s general secretary has joined the BJP recently, boosting the BJP camp.
⦁ AIUDF.The All India United Democratic Front or AIUDF is an Assam-based political party and is also spreading its reach in other states such as Odhisa, Mizoram, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Delhi, and many others. It came up as a significant political party when in the 2011 legislative assembly election it won 18 seats and became the main opposition party in the state.
The AIUDF, formerly known as the UDF, contested 14 LokSabha seats from West Bengal in 2009. The President of the party is MaulanaBadruddinAjmal, who stresses on good governance, and swears to unveil the ‘real picture’ of Assam government’s development. The party wants to showcase how funds from different government schemes and projects are being misused.Currently, the AIUDF is reorganising the party right from the grassroots. Dr. Baharul Islam, General Secretary (Organisation) of the party, has been entrusted with the responsibility of preparing the next-generation leadership, especially from the youths of Assam.
⦁ Bodoland People’s Front.It is a state-level political party and is considerably strong in and around Kokrajhar and Autonomous District. During the 2009 general election. SansumaKhunggurBwiswmuthiary became its first MP, elected from Kokrajhar. In 2008, BiswajitDaimary was the first person to be elected from the RajyaSabha. In the 12th Assam Legislative Assembly, the Bodoland People’s Front won 10 assembly seats. Currently, it is a constituent of the ruling coalition government of Assam. It won 12 seats in 2011 Assam Assembly election.
⦁ National level Political Parties
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP) Communist Party of India (CPI)
⦁ State Level Political parties in Assam
AsomGanaParishad (AGP) AsomGanaParishad (Progressive) (AGPP) Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM)
Autonomous State Demand Committee (ASDC) Bodo People’s Progressive Front (BPPF) PurbanchaliyaLokaParishad (PLP)
TrinamulGanaParishad (TGP) United Minority Front (UMF)
⦁ LokSabha. Assam has 14 LokSabha constituencies – Autonomous District, Barpeta, Dhubri, Dibrugarh, Gauhati,Jorhat, Kaliabor, Karimganj, Kokrajhar, Lakhimpur, Mangaldoi, Nowgong and Silchar, Tezpur.
⦁ In 2014, the BJP won seven out of 14 LokSabha seats in Assam, the Congress and the All India United Democratic Front had three lawmakers each and one member is an Independent. The two BJP allies, Bodoland People’s Front and the AsomGanaParishad (AGP), have no representation in the LokSabha.Riding on Modi wave and a strong anti-incumbency against the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, the saffron party came back to power after 2004, when the party had faced a crushing defeat.
⦁ In 2019 BJP won 9 seats while INC and AIUDF got 3 and 1 seats respectively. There was one Independent winner candidate.
⦁ The 2016 Polling statistics indicated that there was a high degree of anti-incumbency working against TarunGogoi and Congress which had been in power in the state for three consecutive terms since 2001. The BJP capitalised on anti-incumbency and forged crucial alliances with regional heavyweights BPF and AGP. Results were declared on 19 May and the BJP emerged victorious in the frontier state. The BJP toppled Gogoi’s Congress government by winning 86 of the total 126 Assembly seats. The election outcome confirmed that the Assamese electorate had voted for change. BJP leader SarbanandaSonowal was sworn-in as the chief ministe on 24 May 2016.
⦁ The 2021 Assam Legislative Assembly election was the 15th quinquennial legislative assembly election held in the Indian state of Assam from March 27 to April 6 in three phases, to elect 126 MLAs to the 15th Assam Legislative Assembly.he election saw the incumbent BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) retaining power with 75 seats, which marks the first time a non-INC alliance has won consecutive terms in the state. The Mahajot led by INC won 50 seats, increasing its tally from 26 in 2016.
⦁ Separatists Groups in Assam. There are more than 30 different separatist insurgent groups fighting in the seven states in Assam and northeast India. They include the United Liberation Front of Assam, the Manipur People’s Army, the National Liberation Front of Tripura and the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland. Some of them have been fighting since independence in 1947 and have ties to groups with a history of fighting that goes back before that. There have been monthly, weekly and daily reports of violence in Assam and northeastern India. In the 1990s there were relatively frequent reports in newspapers of 10 or 20 people getting killed here or there. Rebel groups in eastern India include the People’s Liberation Army and the United National Liberation Front. In Manipur several separatists groups have united to protest alleged human rights abuses by Indian forces. The Nagas and Bodos have been fighting for independence for a long time. India has periodically expanded its military efforts in Assam against groups such as the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), and Bodo Security Force (BSF). Other rebel groups in Assam observe cease-fire agreements with the government. The decades-long separatist conflict in Nagaland continues with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khapland (NSCN-K), although peace talks have occurred with another faction, the NSCN-IM (Isaac Muivah), after the government lifted its previous ban on the organization. In Tripura, various insurgents continue to target Bengali immigrants and Indian security forces. The conflicts are many and complex and often overlap. By some estimates more than 10,000 people died as a result of fighting in Assam in the 1990s. More than 150,000 Indian troops are in Assam. India has accused Bhutan, Myanmar and especially Bangladesh for letting members of these groups seek refuge in their territory. Many in northeast India want Bangladeshis in the region to be sent back home.
⦁ United Liberation Front of Assam. The United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) is the main separatist group in Assam. It was founded in 1979 by activists angry over the immigration of Muslims from Bangladesh to liberate Assam from Indian control. The ULFA reportedly operates out of camps in Bangladesh. It was based for a while in Bhutan. In the early 2000s, they moved somewhere else.The ULFA has the won the support of local people by supporting development projects such as building flood-control embankments and drawn the wrath of landowners and government officials by staging raids, raising money extortion, kidnaping and murder, blowing up tea processing plants, ambushing and killing police, filling buses carrying workers with bullets, tossing grenades into busy markets and meeting places, killing dozens. SULFA (Surrendered ULFA) is a militia made up of ULFA militants who surrendered to the Indian army and then began carrying out death squad attacks on supporters of ULFA. It has been linked to the execution-style killing of dozens of Indian immigrants from Bihar and other places.
⦁ Organizational structure. During 1990s and 2000s, total strength of ULFA was stated to be around 3,000, while various other sources put the figure ranging from 4,000 to 6,000. A military wing of the ULFA, the SanjuktaMuktiFouj (SMF) was formed on 16 March 1996.SMF had formed three full-fledged so called battalions: the 7th, 8th and the 709th. While remaining battalions exist only on paper at best they have strengths of a company or so. Their allocated spheres of operation are as follows:
⦁ 7th Bn (HQ-Sukhini) is responsible for defence of General Headquarters (GHQ).
⦁ 8th Bn – Nagaon, Morigaon, KarbiAnglong
⦁ 9th Bn – Golaghat, Jorhat, Sivasagar
⦁ 11th Bn – Kamrup, Nalbari
⦁ 27th Bn – Barpeta, Bongaigaon, Kokrajhar
⦁ 28th Bn – Tinsukia, Dibrugarh
⦁ 709th Bn–Kalikhola
⦁ Command Structure
Name Self-Styled Designation Current Status
PareshBaruah Commander-in-Chief On Run, Sentenced to death by Bangladesh court.
RajuBaruah Deputy Commander-in-Chief Surrendered, Released on bail
ArabindaRajkhowa Chairman Surrendered, Released on bail
PradipGogoi Vice-Chairman Captured, Released on bail
AnupChetia General secretary Deported to India from Bangladesh, Currently in Indian custody
MithingaDaimary Propaganda Secretary Captured, Released on bail
ChitrabanHazarika Finance Secretary Captured, Released on bail
PranatiDeka Cultural Secretary Captured, Released on bail
Sashadhar Choudhury Foreign Secretary Captured, Released on bail
⦁ The Dimasa National Liberation Army (DNLA) group announced its formation through a press release on April 15, 2019. The group claimed that it is “committed to revamp the national struggle and fight for the liberation of a sovereign, Independent Dimasa Nation”. It also stated that “the organization is for and to develop a sense of brotherhood among the Dimasa and also to rebuild the trust and faith among the Dimasa society for regaining the Dimasa Kingdom”. The ‘chairman’ of DNLA is NaisodaoDimasa and KharmindaoDimasa is ‘home secretary’. RingsmaiDimasa is the ‘information and publicity secretary’ of the group. The group has also established a ‘government-in-exile’ called ‘Dimasa Peoples’ Supreme Council.
⦁ The Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA) was founded sometime in the year 1996. MULTA is one among the approximately 14 Islamist terrorist outfits reportedly operating in the State of Assam. MULTA and the Muslim United Liberation Front of Assam (MULFA) are also said to be part of the All Muslim United Liberation Forum of Assam (AMULFA). AMULFA was reportedly founded to coordinate the subversive activities of Islamist terrorist elements in the Northeast region of India. Though its time of founding is not known, MULFA is believed to have taken shape at the behest of the Inter-ServicesIntelligence (ISI), the external intelligence agency of Pakistan. The then Chief Minister (CM) of Assam, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, in his statement on the floor of the Assam Legislative Assembly on ISI activities in the State, on April 6, 2000, said MULTA and MULFA were being guided by the ISI. Mahanta further claimed that the ISI had drafted a plan to cause subversion in the State by appealing to the religious sentiments of vulnerable sections in the society, in Assam.
⦁ Leadership & Cadre Strength. Available reports have, thus far, not been able to home in on the names of the leadership of MULTA. Similarly, the cadre strength of the outfit is yet not known. However, security forces have arrested many MULTA cadres and several more have also surrendered to the authorities in the State. A majority of MULTA cadres, reports indicate, are drawn from the poorer sections of the Muslim population in the State and have no more than minimal formal education.
⦁ Aims & Objectives. Reportedly, MULTA, as is allegedly the case with the other Islamist terrorist outfits in the State, seeks to mobilise the Muslim youth in Assam to ‘fight’ for the ’cause’ of Muslims. Reports have also indicated that the outfit has as its objective the waging of jehad against India, to eventually set up a ‘greater independent Islamistan’ for the Muslims of Assam. MULTA cadres, in fact, reports suggest, are attempting to emulate the terrorist outfits operating in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, and claiming that they are waging jehad against the Indian state.
⦁ Linkages. The outfit has established both intra and inter-regional linkages. Reports suggest it has linkages with the National Socialist Council of NaglandIsak-Muivah (NSCN-IM). NSCN-IM operates primarily in Nagaland. The NSCN-IM has allegedly provided training to MULTA cadres in the Jiribam jungles. Some reports even indicated that cadres of other Assam-based terrorist outfits championing the Islamic cause in Assam, too, had trained with the NSCN-IM. MULTA is also said to be a constituent of the United Reformation Protest of India (URPI), another organisation that claims to be a platform for various Islamic terrorist outfits operating in the Northeast. A MULTA cadre arrested on July 9, 2002, in Bilasipara, Dhubri district, Assam, disclosed this. Besides, reports of June 21, 2002 have expressed the apprehension that the Al Qaeda might spread its network across the State. Fleeing Al Qaeda terrorists are looking for safe houses after the US campaign against them started in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the US. These cadres, reports indicate, might turn to the Islamist terrorist outfits in the State to secure safe houses.
⦁ Violence in Assam. The rebels and separatist generally only go after government and military targets and sometimes gun down migrant workers from outside the region but generally leave ordinary local people alone. Assam not only has a problem with rebels and separatists it also has a problem with crime. Bandits, kidnappers and dacoits are a threat in many places. Tea plantations are often targets. In February 1983, perhaps thousands of people in northeast India were killed in ethnic violence. More than 1,500 Muslim were massacred at Nellie at the height of the violence. In December 1996, a bomb exploded on the Brahmaputra Mail train traveling in western Assam. The bomb totally wrecked three carriages of the train and derailed six more, killing at least 33 people. Elections in Assam have been characterized by violence. In 1999, 50 people were killed, including a candidate with the BJP party. In December 2000, gunmen killed 28 people and injured 16 in a bloody attack known as the Sadiya massacre. The victims were non-Assamese: mostly Biharis, Marwaris, Nepalese and Bengalis. In January 2001, tribal militants in Meghalaya were accused of shooting dead five shoppers and setting fire to a historic legislative assembly building in Shillong. In May 2001, three Catholic priests were killed at a missionary school in Manipur’s Thoubal district. The militants were thought to be either members of the People’s Liberation Army or KingleiYawolKunnaLup. In November 2003, a mob killed 15 settlers in Gwahato in Assam. The settlers were mostly from Bihar. Most died after their homes were torched. The attacks were prompted by an attack on Assamese train travelers in Bihar. At the core of the problem is competition over jobs in Assam. In December 2003, the army of Bhutan overran camps used by secessionist groups fighting Assam. In August 2004, a powerful bomb exploded during an Independence day parade in the town of Demaji, killing at least 16, many of them children, and wounding at least 40 others. The attack was blamed in the ULFA. Between October 2nd and October 5th, 2004, 70 people were killed in a series of explosions in and gun attacks in town and villages market and a bus station. Some of the bombs were strapped to bicycles. The attacks were blamed on the ULFA and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland.
⦁ Social Issues
According to Assam Government, Assam has border dispute with four states namely Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh.
(1) Assam-Mizoram dispute
Mizoram used to be a district of Assam as Lushai hills before being carved out as a separate union territory and later, becoming another state in 1987. Because of the history, the district’s borders did not really matter for locals for a long time. Mizoram shares a border with the districts Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj which comes under Barak valley region of Assam. Over time, the two states started having different perceptions about where the demarcation should be. While Mizoram wants it to be along an Inner Line Permit notified in 1875 to protect tribals from outside influence, which Mizos feel is part of their historical homeland, Assam wants it to be demarcated according to district boundaries drawn up much later
(2) Assam-Meghalaya dispute
Meghalaya has identified close to a dozen areas on which it has a dispute with Assam about the state’s borders. The chief ministers of the two states, Himanta Biswa Sarma and Megahalya’s Conrad Sangma, recently held the first-ever meeting on inter-state border dispute. Both the states have agreed to individually assess the claims for all 12 areas flagged by Meghalaya in the past. A second round of discussion between the two state CMs was held in August. On the question of the role the Union Government is playing in redressing the inter-State border dispute in the country, minister of state for home affairs NityanandRai said, “The approach of the Central Government has consistently been that inter-state disputes can be resolved only with the cooperation of the State Governments concerned and that the Central Government acts only as a facilitator for amicable settlement of the dispute in the spirit of mutual understanding.
(3) Assam-Nagaland dispute
The border dispute between the two states has been going on since the formation of Nagaland in 1963. The two states lay claim to Merapani, a small village next to the plains of Assam’s Golaghat district. There have been reports of violent clashes in the region since the 1960s.
(4) Assam-Arunachal Pradesh dispute
Assam shares an 804.10 km inter-state boundary with Arunachal Pradesh. The state of Arunachal Pradesh, created in 1987, claims somel land that traditionally belonged to its residents has been given to Assam. A tripartite committee had recommended that certain territories be transferred from Assam to Arunachal. The two states have since been battling it out in the Supreme Court of India over the issue. Some incidents of local violence have been reported from the borders
b. Separate statehood demand within Assam
(1) Bodoland. The agitation for the creation of a separate Bodoland state resulted in an agreement between the Indian Government, the Assam state government and the Bodo Liberation Tigers Force. According to the agreement made on 10 February 2003, the Bodoland Territorial Council, an entity subordinate to the government of Assam, was created to govern four districts covering 3082 BodoKachari-majority villages in Assam. Elections to the council were held on 13 May 2003, and HagramaMohilary was sworn in as the chief of the 46-member council on 4 June. Demographic wise, the Indigenous Bodo tribe constitute half of the region’s population, along with the region have also significant large number of other ethnic minorities which includes: Assamese, Koch Rajbangshi, Garo, Rabha tribe, Adivasis, Nepalis, Tea tribes, Bengalis, Biharis, Marwaris and Muslims.
KarbiAnglong is one of the 35 districts of Assam. KarbiAnglong was previously known as Mikir Hills. It was part of the Excluded Areas and Partially Excluded Areas (the present North East India) in British India. The British Indian government had never included this area under their government’s jurisdiction. Thereby, no government development work or activity were done, nor any tax levied from the hills including KarbiAnglong. The first memorandum for a Karbi homeland was presented to Governor Reid on 28 October 1940 by SemsonsingIngti and KhorsingTerang at Mohongdijua. The Karbi leaders were then, a part of the All Party Hill Leaders’ Conference (APHLC) which was formed on 6 July 1960. The movement again gained momentum when the KarbiAnglong District Council passed a resolution demanding a Separate State in 1981. Then again from 1986 through the leadership of Autonomous State Demand Committee (ASDC), demanded Autonomous statehood of KarbiAnglong and DimaHasao under Article 244(A). In 2002, the KarbiAnglong Autonomous Council passed another resolution to press for the demand of statehood. Several other memoranda were submitted at different times by several organisations. The demand for a separate state turned violent on 31 July 2013 when student demonstrators set government buildings on fire. Following the incident, the elected leaders of KarbiAnglong jointly submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister of India demanding a separate State. Demographic wise, more then half of the KarbiAnglong population is made up of Indigenous Karbi tribe with significant migrants from other parts of India.
The Dimasa people of northeast India have been demanding a separate state called Dimaraji or “Dimaland” for several decades. It would comprise the Dimasa-Kachari inhabited areas, namely DimaHasao district, Cachar district, parts of Barak Valley, Nagaon district, Hojai district and KarbiAnglong district in Assam together with part of Dimapur district in Nagaland.
(4) Barak state. Bengalis first came into Assam in 19th century A.D as per as various creadable sources. The Barak Valley comprising the present districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi is contiguous to Sylhet (Bengal plains), where the Bengali Hindus, according to historian J.B. Bhattacharjee, had settled well before the colonial period, influencing the culture of DimasaKacaharis. Bhattacharjee describes that the Dimasa kings spoke Bengali and the inscriptions and coins written were in Bengali script. Migrations to Cachar increased after the British annexation of the region. The native Bengali people of Assam demanded separate state for themselves within the Bengali majority areas of Assam particularly Bengali majority Barak valley comprising three districts: Cachar, Hailakandi, Karimganj along with DimaHasao and Lumding was also demanded to meet the criteria for creating a separate state for themselves by carving out from Assam’s Assamese majority Brahmaputra valley post NRC. Silchar is the proposed capital of Barak state. Barak valley is the most neglected part of Assam in terms of its infrastructure development, tourism sector, educational institutions, hospitals, IT industries, G.D.P, H.D.I etc. which is still lagging behind in comparison to the Assam’s mainland Brahmaputra valley which have access to all of those facilities mentioned above. In fact, the southern Assam have a overall indigenous Bengali majority population particularly Lumding have (95%) Bengali majority, Barak Valley region have a overwhelming Bengali majority of about (80.3%), while DimaHasao have approximately (30.2%) significant Bengali plurality on certain pockets specially in the urban areas of the district.
c. Migration from Bangladesh. Assam has been a major site of migration since the Partition of the subcontinent, with the first wave being composed largely of Bengali Hindu refugees arriving during and shortly after the establishment of India and Pakistan (current day Bangladesh was originally part of Pakistan, known as East Pakistan) in 1947–1951. Between the period of first patches (1946-1951), around 274,455 Bengali Hindu refugees have arrived from what is now called Bangladesh (former East Pakistan) in various locations of Assam as permanent settlers and again in second patches between (1952-1958) of the same decade, around 212,545 Bengali Hindus from Bangladesh took shelter in various parts of the state permanently. After the 1964 East Pakistan riots many Bengali Hindus have poured into Assam as refugees and the number of Hindu migrants in the state rose to 1,068,455 in 1968 (sharply after 4 years of the riot). The fourth patches numbering around 347,555 have just arrived after Bangladesh liberation war of 1971 as refugees and most of them being Bengali speaking Hindus have decided to stay back in Assam permanently afterwards. Though the governments of India and Bangladesh made agreements for the repatriation of certain groups of refugees after the second and third waves, a large presence of refugees and other migrants and their descendants remained in the state. Nevertheless, still people of Bangladesh have been immigrating to Assam on regular basis. As per reports, about 635 of Bangladeshi people mostly Hindus, use to immigrate to Assam daily. Besides migration caused by displacement, there is also a large and continual unregulated movement between Assam and neighboring regions of Bangladesh with an exceptionally porous border. The situation is called a risk to Assam’s as well as India’s security. The continual illegal entry of people into Assam, mostly from Bangladesh, has caused economic upheaval and social and political unrest. During the Assam Movement (1979–1985), the All Assam Students Union (AASU) and others demanded that government stop the influx of immigrants and deport those who had already settled. During this period, 855 people (the AASU says 860) died in various conflicts with migrants and police. The 1983 Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, applied only to Assam, decreed that any person who entered the Assam after Bangladesh declared independence from Pakistan in 1971 and without authorisation or travel documents is to be considered a foreigner, with the decision on foreigner status to be carried out by designated tribunals. In 1985, the Indian Government and leaders of the agitation signed the Assam accord to settle the conflict.
The 1991 census made the changing demographics of border districts more visible. Since 2010, the Indian Government has undertaken the updating of the National Register of Citizens for Assam, and in 2018 the 32.2 million residents of Assam were subject to a review of their citizenship. In August 2019, India released the names of the 2 million residents of Assam that had been determined to be non-citizens and whose names had therefore been struck off the Register of Citizens, depriving them of rights and making them subject to action, and potentially leaving some of them stateless, and the government has begun deporting non-citizens, while detaining 1,000 others that same year.
In January 2019, the Assam’s peasant organization KrishakMuktiSangramSamiti (KMSS) claimed that there are around 20 lakh Hindu Bangladeshis in Assam who would become Indian citizens if the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is passed. BJP, however claimed that only eight lakh Hindu Bangladeshis will get citizenship According to various sources, the total number of illegal Hindu Bangladeshis is hard to ascertain. According to the census data, the number of Hindu immigrants have been largely exaggerated.
In February 2020, the Assam Minority Development Board announced plans to segregate illegal Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants from the indigenous Muslims of the state, though some have expressed problems in identifying an indigenous Muslim person. According to the board, there are 1.4 crore Muslims in the state, of which 1 crore are of Bangladeshi origin. A report reveals that out of total 33 districts in Assam, Bangladeshis dominate almost 15 districts of Assam.
d. Floods. In the rainy season every year, the Brahmaputra and other rivers overflow their banks and flood adjacent land. Flood waters wash away property including houses and livestock. Damage to crops and fields harms the agricultural sector. Bridges, railway tracks, and roads are also damaged, harming transportation and communication, and in some years requiring food to be air-dropped to isolated towns. Some deaths are attributed to the floods.
e. Unemployment. Unemployment is a chronic problem in Assam. It is variously blamed on poor infrastructure, limited connectivity, and government policy; on a “poor work culture on failure to advertise vacancies and on government hiring candidates from outside Assam.