Shillong, March 27: Revisiting the dispute over demarcation of the porous Indo-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya, the new-look government has chosen to stall work on the fencing project rather than risk a backlash from villagers apprehensive about losing their land.
“No fencing will take place in areas where there are complaints by locals about losing cultivable land,” deputy chief minister Donkupar Roy said today. The announcement came after D.D. Lapang-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance government took stock of the latest developments along the border.
Officials of the National Building Construction Corporation fled from Jowai to Silchar, in neighbouring Cachar district of Assam, after receiving a “quit notice” from the Co-ordination Committee on International Borders. The committee, a conglomerate of several NGOs, gave the NBCC 72 hours — beginning Monday — to stop fencing the Huroi stretch of the border in Jaintia Hills district.
Contracted to fence the entire Indo-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya, the NBCC was accused of “violating a state government decision” to keep the project on hold in areas where farmers have expressed apprehension about losing agricultural land.
Roy, who is also the chairman of the Co-ordination Committee on Border Fencing, said any project could not be implemented without the consent of residents of that particular area. He said the “crisis” must blow over for work to resume on the fencing project.
Farmers and NGOs have been campaigning against Delhi’s decision to erect fences 150 yards inside the zero line of the Indo-Bangladesh border for almost two years. They argue that residents on this side of the border will lose “vast tracts of cultivable land” if the fence comes up.
The demarcation of several stretches of the 443-km border that Meghalaya shares with Bangladesh has long been disputed. The Co-ordination Committee on International Borders is, however, focusing on the 40-km stretch from Nongjri in the East Khasi Hills to Jaliakhola in the Jaintia Hills. Roy said the dispute could have been settled amicably had the NBCC not gone ahead with the fencing project.