The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gogoi goes after Rio

Guwahati, Feb. 18: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today launched a scathing attack on his Nagaland counterpart Neiphiu Rio over the inter-state border dispute and vowed not to part “with an inch of the land that rightfully belongs to Assam”.

Gogoi questioned Rio’s authority in staking claim to the disputed land, situated along Golaghat district in Assam and Wokha district of Nagaland.

Speaking to newspersons, he asked: “Who is he (Rio) to make such remarks' The Supreme Court will decide the ownership of the land.”

Rio opened up an old wound by raking up the boundary controversy at a public meeting in the disputed area on Sunday. The chief minister, who visited the 20-km stretch of the disputed belt along with several ministers in his government, even exhorted the Naga villagers on his route to reclaim “their land” in the area.

The Nagaland government has accused Assam of encouraging Bangladeshi migrants to settle in the area. To dispel the security concerns of the villagers, Rio said his government would set up a police outpost there.

Reacting to the Nagaland chief minister’s remarks, Gogoi said Assam would neither encroach on an inch of land belonging to others nor allow anybody to take over its land.

Police forces of the two states were locked in a three-day bloody battle, beginning June 5, 1985, over the land. Assam lost 100 of its personnel in the fierce gunbattle, while the number of casualties in the other side was reported to be 11. Since then, Central Reserve Police Force personnel have been deployed in the belt as a “neutral force”.

Several rounds of talks between the two states have failed to resolve the problem, the genesis of which dates back to the time Nagaland was created in 1963.

Replying to a question, Gogoi said a case on the ownership of the land was pending in the apex court. He was referring to the suit Dispur had filed in 1988, seeking a Supreme Court ruling on encroachment in the controversial belt.

In the mid-nineties, Assam filed an interlocutory application accusing Nagaland of encroaching on 54,150 hectares of its forest area and 3,118 hectares of its revenue belt in Jorhat, Golaghat and Sivasagar districts. Dispur said this was in direct violation of the interim agreement signed between the two states in 1972.

Gogoi downplayed Rio’s demand for dividing the oil royalty enjoyed by Assam from explorations in the disputed areas into equal shares. “I have nothing to say as long as we are getting our due,” he added.

Rights panel notice

The Assam Human Rights Commission today issued a showcause to three officers indicted in the Upamoni Choudhury death case by a one-man panel constituted by the government.

The notice came after the panel indicted two officials of the irrigation department and another from the PWD department for faults in design of the culvert that caved in, leading to Choudhury’s death on August 29 last year.

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