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Centre directive on Assam boundary

Itanagar, April 23: Following reports of fresh encroachment within Arunachal Pradesh territory by the Assam forest department, the Centre has directed Assam government to stop construction at Tarasso “immediately” and maintain “status quo” on the inter-state boundary.

Assam home commissioner G.D. Tripathi confirmed the development but said Dispur had sought a review of the order.

The directive sent to the Assam government comes as a response to a letter sent by the government of Arunachal Pradesh to the Union ministry of home affairs in New Delhi on April 21. The Arunachal Pradesh government had sought the intervention of the home ministry, citing reports of erection of fresh structure, allegedly by the Assam forest department, in the Tarasso area along the inter-state boundary on April 19 and 20. It also requested that a team from the ministry be sent to visit the area to “ascertain ground realities”.

The home ministry had earlier already directed the Assam government to stop all construction work of fresh structures in another location in the same area, which was also alleged to have been carried out by the Assam forest department on April 18.

The response from the ministry, addressed to the Assam chief secretary and the home department commissioner and secretary, has sought a report from the Assam government on the matter and directed it to “sort out the issue in consultation with the government of Arunachal Pradesh”.

On January 29 this year, 10 people had died after armed men fired upon people from Assam said to have been camping in Behali forest reserve in Sonitpur district of Assam. Soon after, residents of Borgang and Chariduar in Assam put up an economic blockade against Arunachal Pradesh to protest the killings. The blockade disrupted supplies to various places in Arunachal Pradesh, including capital Itanagar. The blockade was lifted following days of efforts by NGOs and student bodies from both the states.

While the Arunachal Pradesh government announced an ex gratia of Rs 3 lakh each to those killed and Rs 50,000 each to the critically injured, efforts by the governments of both the states have not been able to resolve the boundary disputes at various places. Although a peace committee, comprising government officials of both the states, was formed after the incident, skirmishes continue.

To find a lasting solution to the contentious issue, the Supreme Court had appointed Justice (retd) S.N. Vairava to head the local boundary commission on September 25, 2006. He was to be assisted by two other members with specific direction that the panel should identify the boundaries between Nagaland, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

Justice Vairava later opted out as the commissioner and was replaced by Justice Chatterjee. The commission visited Tarasso under Balijan circle of Papum Pare district on November 12, 2013.

Known as Behali in Assam, the disputed area is one among the many sites that the two states lock horns over. Disputes flare up occasionally in various places along the boundary, most notably in Gumto and Kimin in Papum Pare, Gerukamukh in Lower Subansiri (the site for the Lower Subansiri hydroelectric power project) and Likabali, Kangku, Germe, Raate, Pale and Dipa in West Siang.