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Mediators prefer border status quo

Guwahati, June 22: The two mediators, appointed by the Supreme Court to resolve the vexed Assam-Nagaland border dispute, are in favour of a status quo till the dispute was finally settled.

The mediators — Sriram Panchu, senior advocate of Madras High Court, and Niranjan Bhatt, senior advocate of Gujarat High Court, accompanied by two assistants each — met chief minister Tarun Gogoi as well as chief secretary N.K. Das this afternoon before winding up their three-day trip today.

The mediators, who had been tight-lipped till now, apprised Gogoi today about the developments during the last few days when they interacted with intelligentsia, student groups, civil societies and political parties of both the states.

They told the chief minister that everyone was in “favour” of an amicable and “permanent” settlement of the long-standing border dispute.

Urging Gogoi to take the dispute with Nagaland to its logical conclusion through his political insight and vision, the duo were of the view that more people-to-people contact should be established to build bridges of understanding and to further strengthen the ties.

Emphasising development of border areas, they were of the view that a major part of the dispute would be resolved on its own if a comprehensive development plan was initiated to take care of roads, health and education, among others, along the border.

Gogoi, on his part, told the mediators that third party mediation was the best way to resolve the border dispute between the two states. “We have approached the apex court so that the border row is resolved once and for all.

The apex court verdict will be binding upon one and all. We agree with the views of the mediators that status quo should be maintained till the border row is settled,” a statement from the chief minister’s office said.

While lauding the “relentless” endeavour of the apex court to find a solution to the vexed issue, Gogoi said the steps being initiated to elicit the views and opinions of a cross-section of people on both sides of the border would go a long way in arriving at a broad consensus on resolving the border dispute.

Gogoi said though there may be a dispute, people living on both sides of the inter-state border have been living peacefully. “There are occasional instances of disturbance along the inter-state border, but by and large the situation is normal,” the statement said.

Sources said the duo were expected to submit their report to the apex court shortly and that they had six meetings so far in Assam, Nagaland and Delhi.

“During the three-day visit, they had visited five districts bordering the two states and met locals and NGOs. Yesterday, they met delegations of the AASU and the BJP, which wanted immediate solution to the issue,” a source said.

Sivasagar, Jorhat and Golaghat are the three Assam districts that have been bearing the brunt of the border row.

He told the mediators in clear terms that the border row could be solved only through an “accommodative attitude” and by taking the people into confidence. “We don’t have any problems at all with Nagaland, or for that matter, other neighbouring states. Disputes may be there, but the good thing is that there is no bitterness. And that is what we have to harp on to solve all issues amicably,” he added.

Gogoi added that Dispur had accorded priority to development of border and backward areas of the state and had taken up the matter with the Centre time and again.

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