Assam and Meghalaya seek to resolve border dispute
Assam and Meghalaya on Friday decided to resolve their border dispute in a phase-wise and time-bound manner by constituting three regional committees each to jointly visit six of the 12 friction areas and submit their recommendations within 30 days to their respective governments to work out a final solution.
A decision to this effect was taken at the second chief ministerial-level meeting between Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his Meghalaya counterpart Conrad Sangma in Guwahati to resolve the dispute in 12 areas along the 884.9km inter-state border.
The first meeting was held in Shillong on July 23 which decided to move beyond the status quo situation to resolve the dispute which started after Meghalaya became a state in 1972 after being carved out of Assam — just like Nagaland and Mizoram — which too are presently embroiled in border rows with Assam.
While Meghalaya had made a presentation on the border issue in the Shillong meeting, Assam did the same in Guwahati by presenting its perspective and problems. However, both chief ministers stressed on finding an amicable solution through mutual respect with the three regional committees tasked to take into account “historical aspects, ethnicity, people’s perceptions, administrative convenience and contiguity as their terms of reference”.
The six disputed areas affect three districts in each state. The Meghalaya districts are Ri Bhoi, West Khasi Hills and East Jaintia Hills and the affected districts in Assam are Kamrup, Kamrup (metro) and Cachar.
Apart from Meghalaya, Assam has held meetings with Nagaland and Mizoram to find ways to ensure peace along its inter-state border. On Thursday, the Assam and Mizoram governments decided not to send their forest and police forces to any area along their inter-state border, which has witnessed “confrontation and conflict” recently, to ensure peace.
On July 31, Assam and Nagaland signed a pact to de-escalate tension in the disputed Dessoi Valley reserved forest/Tsurangkong Valley due to a stand-off between the armed forces of both states. The Nagaland Assembly on Thursday adopted a resolution, among others, to find an amicable out of court solution to the dispute by involving the local people. Nagaland was carved out of Assam in 1963.
Efforts to maintain peace and settle the boundary dispute gathered momentum after the border flare-up on July 26 with Mizoram, carved out of Assam in 1972, left six Assam policemen dead and over 45 injured, further straining ties.
Though both states have signed a pact to restore peace and normality along the border, movement of essentials to Mizoram from Assam through National Highway 306 remains stalled because of an unofficial blockade imposed by local people and groups in Assam’s Barak Valley.
The major decisions taken at the meeting between Sarma and Conrad on Friday included:
⚫ Concentrate on resolving the disputes in the six areas of differences between the two states — Tarabari, Gizang, Boklapara, Pillangkata, Hahim and Ratacherra.
⚫ Three regional committees headed by a cabinet minister from each state as co-chairmen and local MLAs, bureaucrats and civil society members as members will be constituted. The Assam ministers are Chandra Mohan Patowary, Atul Bora and Pijush Hazarika.
⚫ The committees consisting of 10 members, five each from both the states, will undertake joint visits to the disputed areas. The committees will submit their recommendations to find mutually agreeable solutions within 30 days.
Conrad said after the meeting that a phase-wise solution will be worked out. “The dispute has carried on for far too long... but we stand united and committed to resolve our border issues with mutual respect, keeping our people first and by upholding the spirit of Northeast alive,” he said.
Terming the border talks “very fruitful”, he said both sides exuded pragmatism and respect for each other for solving the outstanding border issues in a time-bound and phase-wise manner.
“Assam and Meghalaya share a long historical bond... both the states should engage in talks to minimise the areas of differences,” Sarma said while advocating a new framework of pragmatism and an open mind to take the border talks to a logical conclusion.