MBA Education & Careers
March 2007 3
Assam: Rivers of Blood
India’s North-East, today marketed as an
‘Unexplored Paradise’, is characterized by
religious, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural
diversity. The region is home to some of the most
serious internal conflicts that have plagued our
country since the time of its independence from
British rule. Almost all conflicts in the North-East
are based on ethnic, linguistic, and political
ideologies. Analysts attribute the disturbances in
the north-east to the strong growth of extreme
regionalism among the people inhabiting these
In January 2007, the United Liberation Front of
Asom (ULFA) killed over 70 people, mostly poor
migrant workers. Such poor non-Assamese
migrants are an easy game for a ruthless militant
organisation like the ULFA. Ever since its
foundation in 1979, the ULFA has been
demanding that the non-Assamese, especially
Hindi-speaking people, leave Assam.
Before we venture out to analyse the causes and
consequences of the ULFA’s killing spree, it
would help if the reader is aware of the ‘idea’ of
regionalism as well as the ‘idea’ of secession.
What is regionalism?
Regionalism refers to a feeling of distinctiveness,
group consciousness or sectional identification
and loyalty shared by people who live in a
particular area. Often, groups of people seek to
politicize the territorial predicaments of their
region, with the intent of protecting and
advancing their regional interests.
In India today, regionalism has assumed two
major forms. In its most radical form, regionalism
is violent, making a demand of secession of a
particular region from India thus generating a
centrifugal force. Such a demand for secession
directly threatens the unity and integrity of India.
The current situations in J&K and Nagaland are
of this form.
The second major form that regionalism takes on
is a demand for autonomy within the political
border of an existing state. The demand for
Bodoland within the existing state of Assam is an
example of this type of regiona