They originated predominantly in East Bengal, a highly populated area with low agricultural productivity and a fragmented landholding pattern incapable of supporting large families. In contrast, Assam was less populated, many areas were unsettled, and there was less pressure on the land. Bengali peasants made large tracts of waste, flooded and forested land habitable and productive along the southern bank of the Brahmaputra River, an area that is also populated by indigenous tribal groups, especially the Lalung.
Overall Bengali dominance began to manifested itself in various ways. They held urban professions, their language was more developed and widely used in Assam, and their educational and even numerical superiority became more than evident. With the halting spread of education in the twentieth century, the Assamese middle class slowly emerged, and with the growth of the Assamese middle class, the seeds of what has been called "little nationalism" were sown in Assam. After the partition of and the transfer of a very large Bengali Muslim district of Sylhet to East Pakistan, the Assamese middle class came to power for the first time in about a century.
Through expanded educational programs and the use of Assamese as a language in the university, this newly acquired power, electorally buttressed, was used to consolidate the position of the Assamese middle class against Bengali dominance in administrative services and professions.
On the other hand, the various tribes on the lower ranges were less developed than both of these contending communities. Depending on the preponderance of one or the other in their local context, they felt pressured, even exploited, culturally, economically and politically by both groups. Despite the existence of an international border, the migration from East Pakistan continued alongside migration from West Bengal.
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There is considerable dispute over the actual magnitude, but the most comprehensive estimate shows that between and the proportion of Assamese declined for the first time and that of Bengali speakers increased; between and itself, as many as 1. Moreover, the number of registered voters increased dramatically from 6. This last discovery of the Election Commission was, in fact, the starting point of the present phase of the organized student movement supported by large sections of the Assamese middle class. The movement has wide-ranging demands including development of Assam and greater share of benefits from its rich national resources, including oil, for the Assamese.
Why the issue of deportation of "illegal aliens" has come to be the focus of the movement needs some explanation. Despite the general anti-Bengali sentiment, the expulsion of migrants that came from West Bengal - these migrants are predominantly Hindus - could not be brought about legally or politically. Interstate movement and residence are perfectly legal in India, and the Assamese economy and society, despite the antagonism, is inextricably linked with West Bengal. On the other hand, the "post place of origin" of migrants from Bangladesh, largely Muslim, makes them "aliens" and their migration, for political purposes, can be called "illegal.
Additionally, these Muslim migrants provided unstinted support to the Congress Party, now represented by Mrs. Gandhi, and the party in turn patronized them, so much so that local politicians of the Congress Party seem to have put aliens on the electoral rolls irrespective of whether or not they had Indian citizenship. It is in this atmosphere that the elections were called.
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Gandhi has been heavily criticized in India for her decision to call the elections. Two considerations seem to have gone into her decision: her need for an electoral victory due to the reverses her party had suffered in recent state elections, and her intention to negotiate with a new set of elected leaders who would possibly be more pliable than students on the issue of "aliens. Large-scale violence and destruction of lives, property, bridges, and various other resources resulted.
In addition to the predictable attacks on Bengalis in the towns, there were massacres in which first pro-election Boro tribals attacked Assamese villages at Gohpur and later, in the worst massacre witnessed in independent India, another tribe, the anti-poll Lalung, reportedly with Assamese support, killed scores of Bengali Muslims in Nellie.
The spread of urban conflict to villages seems to be partly a result of the emergence of support for leftist parties in the previous elections.
The land reform-oriented agrarian program of the left and its attempt to create a base in the Muslim peasantry seems to have antagonized the Assamese landlords and wealthier peasantry. Moreover, tribals seem to be involved in the struggle over land, attacking whichever community, Assamese or Bengali, in possession of most of the land in their respective local situations. Hold over government, struggle for jobs, land scarcity, and population influx have thus intensified the historical differences between Assamese and Bengali into violent ethnic antagonisms in Assam.
All of this took place in a context of acute underdevelopment of Assam and slow economic growth. The anti-aliens agitation is an expression, among other things, of the Assamese fear of becoming politically swamped by an ever larger Bengali presence in the state. Starting in August , mounting communal tension between Hindus and Sikhs in the state of Punjab led to violent clashes, in the last year in particular. Unlike Assam, Punjab is a state with the highest per capita income.
It is the seat of the Green Revolution in India, whose biggest beneficiaries have been the rich Sikh peasants. In Punjab, Sikhs are a majority, Hindus, a minority. Although religious symbols have been used for the mobilization of Sikhs and the secessionist slogan of Khalistan a sovereign state of Sikhs has been raised, the Sikh's charter of demands, drawn from the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, has strong economic and political components, unlike in Assam where the issue of aliens has sidelined economic demands.
The "major" religious demands by the Sikhs, including greater radio time for religious broadcasts over federally controlled radio, and a separate legislative act for Sikh religious shrines, were granted by New Delhi this past February. The major political demands are greater powers, including financial, for the states vis-a-vis New Delhi.
A commission has been appointed to review these demands. The economic demands include a greater share of river waters for irrigation and larger central investment in the industrial sector of Punjab. The territorial and the waters issues are the only unsettled points left. Other demands, minor at present, may later assume importance. The agitation continues unabated.
According to the census, Sikhs constituted In the villages, the Sikh majority was even greater, constituting In the urban areas, however, Hindus formed the majority, Trade and services, rather than manufacturing, are the main sectors of urban economy in Punjab, and Hindu traders are dominant in both. The agricultural sector is dominated by the Sikh cultivating castes, known as jats. Green revolution, based as it was on biochemical and mechanical inputs in agriculture and surplus production for market, has deeply linked trade with agriculture and made the latter dependent on the market.
London: Benn, pp.
Two-nation theory (Pakistan)
Fairbank, J. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. Hall, J. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Company. Hao, Y. The Cambridge History of China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Keene, D. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Lockwood, W. Available at: www. Martin, C. New York: Abelard-Schuman Limited. Moulder, F. Storry, R. London: Penguin. Before you download your free e-book, please consider donating to support open access publishing. E-IR is an independent non-profit publisher run by an all volunteer team. Your donations allow us to invest in new open access titles and pay our bandwidth bills to ensure we keep our existing titles free to view.
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