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Sushanta Talukdar
Date of Publish: 2018-06-28

Census 2011 Language Data: Assam records decline in percentage of Assamese, Bodo, Rabha and Santali speakers

Languages and mother tongue data of 2011 Census released by the Census authorities have revealed that percentages of Assamese and Bodo speakers to the total population in Assam have declined while percentages of Bengali and Hindi speakers in the state have increased over the decade 2001-2011.

The data http://www.censusindia.gov.in/2011Census/C-16_25062018_NEW.pdf reveal that percentage of Assamese Speakers in Assam further declined to 48.38 in 2011 from 48.80 in 2001. Percentage of Bengali Speakers increased to 28.91 in 2011 from 27.54 in 2001. Number of Bodo Speakers declined to 4.53 per cent of the total population in 2011 from 4.86 per cent in 2001. Number of Hindi speakers increased to 6.73 per cent in 2011 as compared to 5.89 In 2001.

In 1991, the percentage of Assamese speakers in Assam was 57.81 per cent and that of Bengali was 21.67 per cent.

While decadal percentage of all major language groups registered increase, the Rabhas recorded a sharp decline of 15.04 per cent over the decade from 1,64,770 persons in 2001 to 1,39,085 in the country and from 1,30,875 to 101,752 in the state. Number of Santali speakers also declined from 2,42,886 in 2001 to 2,13,139 in 2011 in the state.

The Data show that of the total population 31,205,576 enumerated in Assam during 2011 Census, 15,095,797 are Assamese speakers, 9,024,324 are Bengali speakers, 14,16,125 are Bodo speakers, 21,01,435 are Hindi speakers. Corresponding figures in 2001 Census were: Assamese – 13,010,478, Bengali- 73,43,338, Bodo- 12,96,162 and Hindi- 15,69,662.

Increase in absolute number of speakers of these four languages over the decade 2001-2011 in Assam was: Assamese – 20,85,319, Bengali- 16,80,986, Bodo-1,19,963 and Hindi- 5,31,773.

Number of persons, who returned Assamese as mother tongue, also declined by 0.02 percentage points from 1.28 per cent to the country’s total population in 2001 to 1.26 per cent in 2011. Altogether 1,53,11,351 persons returned Assamese as their mother tongue in the country in 2011 as against 1,31,68,484 in 2001 and 1,30,79,696 in 1991 (1.56 per cent of country’s total population).

Among the speakers of 22 Scheduled Languages of the country, Hindi speakers top the list with the highest percentage of 43.63 followed by Bengali with 8.30 per cent in the second position and Marathi ranks third with 7.09 per cent while Assamese speakers are placed at the 12th rank with 1.31 per cent.

Numbers of speakers of some other languages in Assam and in the country recorded in 2011 Census are as follows:
















Tiwa ( recorded as Lalung in Census 2011)







In 2001, population of these language speakers in the state were as follows: Mishing- 5,17,170, Karbi- 4,06,160, Dimasa- 1,08,133, Rabha- 1,30,875, Tiwa – 26,480 and Deori- 23,366.

Of the total 1,53,11,351 Assamese speakers of the country 1,48,16,144 in 2011 returned Assamese as mother tongue and 4,94,937 returned mother tongues other than Assamese. Among 14,82,929 Bodo speakers of the country 14,54,547 returned Bodo as their mother tongue, 15,984 as Kachari, 11546 as Mech/Mechhia and 852 as others.

The relevant instructions to enumerators issued by the Census authorities in respect of mother-tongue were as follows:

(i) Mother tongue is the language spoken in childhood by the person’s mother to the person. If the mother died in infancy, the language mainly spoken in the person’s home in childhood will be the mother tongue. In the case of infants and deaf mutes, the language usually spoken by the mother should be recorded. In case of doubt, the language mainly spoken in the household may be recorded.

(ii) Record mother tongue in full, whatever is the name of the language returned by the respondent and do not use abbreviations. Please note the following: You are not expected to determine if the language returned by a person is a dialect of another language. (b)You should not try to establish any relationship between religion and mother tongue. (c) You are bound to record the language as returned by the person as her/his mother tongue and you should not enter into any argument with her/him and try to record any language other than what is returned, and (d) If you have reasons to suspect that in any area due to any organised movement, the mother tongue is not being truthfully returned, you should record the mother tongue as actually returned by the respondent and make a report to your supervisory officers for verification. You are not authorised to make any correction on your own

(iii) The mother tongue as returned by the respondent should be recorded in full under this question.

(iv) Since a household may consist of persons related by blood or of unrelated persons or a mix of both, it is absolutely necessary to ask of every person about her/his mother tongue because the mother tongue of each member of a household need not necessarily be the same -these may be different for different members in the household.

Sushanta Talukdar


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