In Assam, agitation against immigrants started as early as 1979, led by All Assam Students Union. Their demand was to put a stop on the influx of immigrants and deportation of those who have already settled. It gradually took violent form and ethnic violence started between Assamese and Bengalis, mostly Muslim. It eventually led to the infamous Nellie massacre in 1983 due to a controversy over the 1983 election.In 1985 Indian Government signed the Assam accord with the leaders of the agitation to stop the issue. As per the accord India started building a fence along the Assam-Bangladesh border which is now almost complete. However, Assam also has a large number of genuine Indian Muslim Bengalis. It is difficult to distinguish between illegal Bangladeshis and local Bengali speakers. In some cases, genuine Indian citizens have been discriminated Allegations exist that nationalist parties such as the Bharatiya Janata Party as well as the Indian National Congress have discriminated against Bengali-speaking Muslims. On the other hand, in some places reports of Bangladeshis being able to secure Indian ration and voter identity cards have come out.
After 1991 census the changing demographic patterns in border districts became more visible. It created anxiety and tension in India throughout the nineties. Both conservatives as well as moderates expressed concern on this issue. The first BJP government came into power in 1998 and subsequently ordered the construction of the Indo-Bangladesh barrier to stop migrants and illegal trade along the border. It was planned to enhance the already existing barrier in Assam and to encircle West Bengal, Tripura and Mizoram as well.