| An Assam policeman patrols the inter-state border at Borhula near Geleky in Sivasagar district. File picture |
Jorhat, April 22: Assam has countered Nagaland’s attempt to set up a polling booth “inside Assam territory” by citing a Supreme Court order of 2002.
A meeting was convened on April 17 on the orders of the Election Commission after Nagaland complained that the Assam government had thwarted its attempts to set up a polling booth in the Geleky area of Sivasagar district during elections for Kohima Lok Sabha seat on April 9.
At this high-level meeting in Guwahati, Dispur told the Nagaland team that according to a Supreme Court ruling of 2002, both Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh could continue holding polls at booths set up inside disputed areas with Assam prior to 1991, but not since then.
Nagaland chief secretary Banuo Z. Jamir, her Assam counterpart Jitesh Khosla and the chief electoral officers of Nagaland and Assam — Sentiyanger Imchen and Vijayendra respectively — were present at the meeting.
Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh have been involved in boundary disputes with Assam for a long time and the matter is pending in the apex court.
During the Nagaland Assembly polls in February last year, the Nagaland government had tried to set up a polling booth in the same area but was prevented from doing so by the Sivasagar district administration.
Commissioner (Upper Assam division) S.I. Hussain was part of the Assam delegation that attended the meeting. He told The Telegraph today that the Nagaland delegation claimed that, according to their records, Number 1 Lahdoigarh polling booth, under Tamlu Assembly segment, existed at the Borhula area of Geleky, under Nazira sub-division of Sivasagar district. Longleng district of Nagaland shares its boundary with Assam in that area.
Nagaland claims that 300 voters were scheduled to vote at the polling station, which was supposed to be organised at Government LP School, Geleky.
But according to Assam’s records, no such polling booth existed and no LP School existed under the name produced by Nagaland and there was no area by the name Lahdoigarh in the place claimed by the neighbouring state, Hussain said.
“The place where they (Nagaland) wanted to set up a polling centre is well within our (Assam) territory. Assam has a polling station at Geleky Jungle Borhola LP School with 700 voters (under Nazira seat) near the area where Nagaland had attempted to put up the polling centre,” Hussain said.
The commissioner said the Assam delegation asked the neighbouring state to produce evidence that the polling booth had been there before 1991.
Hussain said the Nagaland team was told that if the neighbouring state had “really” set up the polling station before 1991, then they must have sketch maps of the area with names of the villages that the polling station covered and, most importantly, the approval of the Election Commission, which has to give its nod while setting up a new polling station.
“We told them to move the Election Commission if they possessed this evidence and try to establish their claim before the commission,” Hussain said.