Sushanta Talukdar

Guwahati: Speakers of Assamese have become a minority in the State. Though they continue to be the single largest population group, their percentage has been reduced to less than 50.

The language data for 2001, made public by Census authorities recently, shows that the percentage of Assamese speakers declined from 57.81 per cent recorded in the 1991 Census to 48.80. On the other hand the percentage of Bengali speakers increased from 21.67 per cent to 27.54 per cent.

During the 2001 census, of the total population of 26,655,528, 13,010,478 persons were Assamese speakers and 73,43,338 were Bengali speakers. In the 1991 census the total number of Assamese speakers was 12,958,088 (57.81 per cent) and the Bengali speakers 4,856,532 (21.67 per cent).

The number of Bodo speakers in Assam in the 2001 census was 1,296,162 against a total number of 1,350,478 Bodo speakers in the entire country.

In the 1991 census, the total number of Bodo language speakers in Assam was 1,184,569.

At the time of the 1991 census, Bodo was included in the list of Non-Scheduled languages while in the 2001 census Bodo, Dogri, Maithili and Santali were added to the Eighth Schedule.

After its inclusion in the list of scheduled languages, the total number of Santali speakers increased from 1,35,902 in 1991 to 2,42,886 in 2001.

The percentage of speakers of Assamese language to the country’s total population also declined from 1.58 in 1991 to 1.28 in 2001. It was 1.63 in the 1971 Census while in 1981 no census was conducted in Assam.

The total population of other major ethnic population groups of Assam recorded in the 2001 Census was: Dimasa —108,133 Karbi — 406,160 Deori — 23,366 Rabha —130,875 Mishing — 517,170 and Tiwa (recorded as Lalung in the Census) — 26,480.

In the 1991 census the population of these ethnic groups were as follows: Dimasa- 84,654 Karbi – 355,032 Deori — 15,955 Rabha — 112,424, Mishing- 3,81,562 and Tiwa (recorded as Lalung in the Census) — 32,633.

This showed the number of Tiwa language speakers have also declined in the State, according to the data.