The Curious Case of Citizenship in Assam: A Look at the 1980s Agitation


The Discussion Map charts important debates from the pages of E​PW.

Over 40 lakh people have been excluded from Assam’s National register of Citizens (NRC) published in July 2018. The Assam government has, since, demanded a re-verification of the NRC draft, citing flaws in the design process. 

Assam is currently the only Indian state to have its own register of citizens, that is, a list of all Indian citizens residing within the boundaries of the state.

Illegal immigration has been a major concern for the Assam government, given that the state experiences immigration primarily from its border with Bangladesh. In the early 1980s, a movement led by the All Assam Students Union (AASU) culminated into the Assam Movement or Assam Agitation, which saw protests—some peaceful, others violent—against immigrants, primarily from Bangladesh, across the state.

We map the discussion beginning with Hiren Gohain’s 1980 article, “Cudgel of Chauvinism,” which argued that the movement was based on chauvinism and was a result of propaganda spread by parties with vested interests. Sanjib Kumar Baruah, Tilottoma Misra, Lily Bara, Gail Omvedt, Amalendu Guha, Udayon Misra and others participate in this discussion.

 A few other works that have broadly responded to or are related to this discussion:

  1. Tangled Theories. Apurba Kumar Baruah, 1980
  2. Ganging-Up Against the Left. P C Mathur, 1980
  3. Fall-Out of Underdevelopment. Hiren Gohain, 1980
  4. Assamese People's Agitation. Gail Omvedt, 1980
  5. National Register of Citizens: Old Divides and New Fissures. Sajal Nag, 2018


Ed: To contribute to a more comprehensive discussion map, please share links to other relevant articles in the comments section or write to us at with the subject line—“Citizenship in Assam”


[Curated by Anindita Kar (, Shreedhar Manek (,  and Kieran Lobo (] 

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