The Assam conflict which culminated in large-scale massacres and in a civil war-like situation in the course of the State Assembly Election in Febmary 1983, has to be seen as a multi-causal crisis. In this article three important aspects are analysed. Part I concentrates on the political character of the anti-foreigners agitation. Rise, momentum and issues of the agitation movement are outlined. The main demands of the agitation leaders are confronted with the argumentation put forward by the Central Government. In view of the increasing polarisation and fragmentation of Assamese society emphasis is placed on the question which communal groups and organisations supported the agitation movement. Part II deals with the ethnic component of the long-standing conflict in Assam. The movement gained its main momentum from the controversy "How to identify the foreigners" and "How to determine their magnitude". A thorough investigation soon reveals the highly political nature of this identification and quantification problem. Finally, a district-wise analysis of the population growth and the ethnic distribution not only demonstrates the extremely composite structure of Assamese society but also proves the rather different impact of the population rise and migration on the eight districts concerned.