The Congress on Sunday decided to scale up its opposition to the proposed give-and-take approach adopted by the Assam and Meghalaya governments to resolve the decades-old inter-state border row by taking its “fight to the Centre, to the court and the people’s court” if the state government does not take the Assembly, affected people and civil society organisations into confidence.
A meeting convened by the Assam Congress Legislature Party (CLP) here on Sunday discussed threadbare, among others, its stand on the border issue. The meeting was attended by four MPs and 20 MLAs besides Assam Pradesh Congress Committee president Bhupen Kumar Borah.
The CLP meeting followed Saturday’s Assam PCC’s protest march against the proposed 50:50 land deal and the meeting with prominent citizens on the government’s move to resolve the row in six of the 12 areas of disputes with Meghalaya.
The BJP-led state government had on Tuesday informed an all-party meeting that out of 36.80sqkm under dispute, around 18.51sqkm would go to Assam and 18.29km to Meghalaya in a “give and take approach” to settle the row once and for all.
Although Congress, the Assam Jatiya Parishad, the CPM, AIUDF and Raijor Dal welcomed the government move to resolve the issue, they wanted Dispur to first discuss the issue in the Assembly.
Assam CLP leader Debabrata Saikia told The Telegraph: “Sunday’s three-hour CLP meeting reviewed our stand on the border row, among others. The meeting decided we take our fight to the people’s court, to the Centre, to the court if other options are exhausted and also involve the AICC. We are also for a solution but through laid down procedure by taking the assembly, affected people and leading CSOs into confidence.”
The Congress contends adopting the 50:50 deal with Meghalaya could see Assam also “cede” land to Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram with whom the state has border disputes. “Moreover, there are other issues like what happens to the affected people. Meghalaya land rights are different from that of Assam,” he said.
Wondering why the government was in such a tearing hurry, Saikia pointed out the state cabinet approved the report of the government-constituted regional committees to look into the border row a day (Wednesday) after the all-party meeting. The next day, Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma met Union home minister Amit Shah with the reports. Sangma said they would meet Shah again after January 26.
During Saturday’s protest, PCC president Borah had asserted they would stick to a threadbare discussion in the Assembly because it was the representative of the people.
“In the name of solution we are not in favour of ceding land to Meghalaya,” Borah had said amid anti-government and anti-BJP slogans raised by party leaders and workers.
Civil society representatives such as H.R.A. Choudhury and Paresh Malakarwith with whom the PCC had interacted on Saturday told The Telegraph that the Congress “should go to the people and the court”.
Choudhury said the party could, among others, set up a legal team and explore possibilities of “directly moving the Supreme Court under Article 131 which deals with border dispute”.
The AJP too is against the proposed 50:50 solution.
An AJP delegation led by its top brass — Lurinjyoti Gogoi and Jagadish Bhuyan — visited one of the disputed sites, Lampi in Kamrup district, for stock-taking on Saturday.
The AJP leaders said discussion was held on encroached land and not on the demarcated constitutional boundary when Meghalaya was carved out of Assam in 1972.
“The government approach is unacceptable without the views of the people and the Assembly. This is not give-and take but utter surrender,” Gogoi said.
Bhuyan, AJP general secretary, said chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma seemed to be acting like a “raja-maharaja” to give away land to Meghalaya to “fulfil” his political ambition.
“Meghalaya has encroached on around 10km in Lampi. The swift developments since the all-party meeting show the government had pre-decided everything. The government should proceed according to laid down rules or we will oppose the proposed 50:50 formula,” Bhuyan said.