Assam is dominated by the mighty River Brahmaputra, and its vast, lush valley sandwiched between the Himalayan foothills to the north and the Meghalayan hills and plateau to the south. An attractive state carpeted by plantations, forests and paddy fields, Assam is one of India’s few oil regions, and produces around sixty percent of the nation’s tea. However, the industry is not as profitable as it once was, and for the marginalized baganiyas (tea workers), mainly adivasis tribal people brought in from central India by the British to work as indentured labourers on the plantations – depressingly little has changed since colonial times.

Social divisions and ethnic strife have lead to long-term instability in the state. The separatist group United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) began an armed struggle for independence in 1985, and in the early 1990s Assamese nationalism sparked opposition from Bodos, Cachars and other ethnic minorities. Bangladeshi migration into Assam has been a bone of contention for indigenous Assamese, resulting in the deadly clashes of 2012 between migrant Bangladeshis and Bodos that left several dead in the western districts of the state.

Despite the seemingly insurmountable ethnic tensions, occasional violence reported in the press, bandhs and political in-fighting, the situation has vastly improved, as has the infrastructure. More and more visitors are enjoying the delights of the local wildlife and tea plantations, as tourists are rarely embroiled in the strife that underlies the social fabric of Assam.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

India features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Living the past: the ancient professions of Old Delhi

Living the past: the ancient professions of Old Delhi

Modernity is seeping into Old Delhi, a walled district that has long harboured the Indian capital’s traditional ways of life. But what does this mean for long…

11 Dec 2017 • Jack Palfrey local_activity Special feature
Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

That ever-growing travel wish list might be putting some pressure on your pocket – but there are plenty of destinations where you'll get more bang for your b…

11 Oct 2017 • Emma Gibbs camera_alt Gallery
19 places to get utterly lost

19 places to get utterly lost

One of the great joys of travelling is stumbling across unexpected places, wandering without a single destination in mind and embracing the journey. These place…

12 Sep 2017 • Keith Drew camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right