Shillong, Feb. 17: On May 14, 2010, Langpih, which lies on the fringes of West Khasi Hills and Kamrup on the fragile Meghalaya-Assam boundary, made headlines, as bullets fired by 4 Assam Police Battalion personnel seared through bodies.
Four persons — Columbus Hujon, Charles Lyngkhoi, Ekros Rani, and Dennis Nongsiej — were killed and 12 injured. The policemen had allegedly resorted to indiscriminate firing following a clash between two communities.
Nearly three years have elapsed but no immediate solution seems to be in sight. In fact, over four decades have gone by with no resolution to the conflict.
Every year, a hue and cry is raised, voices for those living on the fringes are raised, governments react and dialogues are held but no headway is made, as Meghalaya and Assam blame each other for the delay in arriving at a once-and-for-all solution.
Perhaps, the impediment that stands between the boundary conflict and its resolution lies in the fact that political consequences are at stake for both the states. After all, land is an indispensable asset.
Langpih, which embodies the conflict, is a village of Hima Raidmynsaw and falls under the newly created 33-Rambrai-Jyrngam Assembly constituency. It is also one of the 42 polling stations of the constituency for the February 23 polls.
It is one of the 12 areas of difference between Assam and Meghalaya. The others are Upper Tarabari, Gizang reserve forest, Hahim, Borduar, Boklapara, Nongwah-Matamur, Khanapara-Pilangkata, Deshdemoreah, Block I and Block II, Khanduli-Psiar and Ratacherra.
While Block I comprises areas of difference between Meghalaya and Assam in the West Jaintia Hills-North Cachar Hills districts, Block II is along the Ri Bhoi-Karbi Anglong districts. The two blocks had been transferred to the then United Mikir and North Cachar Hills districts on April 13, 1951. These 12 areas cover around 2,700 square km, of which about 1,500 square km falls under Blocks I and II.
Going by what the Congress-led government in Meghalaya has maintained, even “Guest House No. 1, Khanapara, Guwahati” — the address of Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi — is on “disputed territory”.
Looking back, perhaps the root cause of the boundary row between the states lies within The North-Eastern Areas (Reorganisation) Act, 1971. This was a legislation that provided for establishment of the states of Manipur and Tripura and for the formation of the state of Meghalaya and of the Union territories of Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh by reorganisation of the then existing state of Assam. It, however, did not specify in “black and white” the territorial jurisdiction of Meghalaya.
In 2011, the Meghalaya Assembly passed a resolution for constituting a Boundary Commission to resolve the deadlock. The Assam Assembly, however, adopted a resolution negating the Meghalaya one.
But last year, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi and his Meghalaya counterpart, Mukul Sangma, were in sync on the possibility of appointing a “third party” to mediate between the two states on the imbroglio.
Like in every election, the conflict is back on the agenda of political parties contesting across the 60 Assembly constituencies in Meghalaya.
The new government will have to shoulder the old problem. Talks between the two sides will be held across and over the table, but will a solution be forthcoming? Only time will tell.