Ironically, for a very long time, Bangladeshi immigrants have been a part and parcel of Assam’s economic landscape doing manual jobs especially in construction, selling vegetables, tilling the fields, pulling rickshaws for unbelievably low wages. As long as they worked invisibly and were not politically organized, Assamese society utilized the cheap labour they provided.
But the fear was first felt after the death of Shri Hiralal Patwari, sitting Member of Parliament from Lok Sabha representing the Mangaldai LS Constituency on March 28, 1979 necessitated the holding of by-elections, which set in motion the events leading up to the Assam movement.
With the issue of illegal immigration the fear for Jati, Mati and Bheti also aroused. And after each and every five year political parties don’t miss a chance to remind the voters about it.
From Vote bank to rise of prominence
Given this background, the run-up to the 2016 Assembly elections have been dominated by alleged ‘vote-bank’ politics of the Congress and the rise to prominence of a minority-based party called the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF). The AIUDF, led by Badruddin Ajmal, claims to represent Muslims, tea labourers, and Scheduled Tribes. However, the entry of the BJP in collaboration with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) could prove to be a game-changer.
Now, Assam is home to a myriad of indigenous communities who are not Assamese but are parallel to the ethnic community.