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.
Because of their educational advantage over Assamese, they were better suited to man the growing administrative and professional machinery.
Bengali Muslims on the other hand, were mainly peasants.
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.
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.
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.Three ethnic or religious conflicts have stood out of late: two occurred in the states of "Assam and Punjab; another, the more widely known Hindu-Muslim conflict, continues to persist.The Assam problem is primarily ethnic, the Punjab problem is based on both religious and regional conflicts, while the Hindu-Muslim problem is predominantly religious.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. Gandhi has been heavily criticized in India for her decision to call the elections.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.ETHNIC CONFLICT IN ASSAM Of the three conflicts mentioned, Assam has attracted the largest attention of late.Not since the 1947 partition of India have so many people been killed and uprooted as a result of ethnic or communal violence.In Assam, three culturally disparate groups have been in collision: the Assamese, the Bengalis (both of which have segments of Hindus and Muslims) and the tribals, which are localized communities.Historical Pattern of Migration Assam has had the highest rate of population growth in India since the beginning of this century.