Assam, Meghalaya govts sign MoU to resolve border dispute
The Assam and Meghalaya governments on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding to resolve their decades-old border dispute in six of the 12 contentious areas, aiming to ease tensions along 70 per cent of the frontier.
Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his Meghalaya counterpart Conrad Sangma signed the “historic” border deal in Delhi in the presence of Union home minister Amit Shah and the chief secretaries of the two states.
Both chief ministers had in January submitted to Shah the draft recommendations of committees they had set up, involving a disputed area of around 36.79sqkm straddling 36 villages. Sources said Assam would get full control of 18.51sqkm and Meghalaya 18.28sqkm. The details of the deal have not been announced yet.
Shah later tweeted: “In another milestone towards fulfilling PM Shri @NarendraModiJi’s resolve of a peaceful and dispute free North East, today a historic agreement was signed by the CM Assam Shri @himantabiswa and CM Meghalaya Shri @SangmaConrad for the settlement of their interstate boundary.”
In another milestone towards fulfilling PM Shri @NarendraModi Ji’s resolve of a peaceful and dispute free North East, today a historic agreement was signed by the CM Assam Shri @himantabiswa and CM Meghalaya Shri @SangmaConrad for the settlement of their interstate boundary. pic.twitter.com/0OQA57Vwfh— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) March 29, 2022
Shah also said 70 per cent of the border disputes had been settled.
Sarma said the MoU to resolve the 50-year-old inter-state boundary issue in six of the 12 areas of differences was a historic occasion for the people of both states. The BJP politician expressed confidence in finding a solution to the remaining six friction areas soon.
Sarma accused the Congress of leaving the boundary disputes hanging after Meghalaya was carved out of Assam on January 21, 1972. The states share an 884.9km-long border.
The first meeting between the two chief ministers was held in Shillong on July 23, 2021, where the two had decided to move beyond the “status quo” on the disputed areas and resolve the differences in phases and in a time-bound manner.
They decided to first untangle the standoff at six areas where the differences are less intense. These areas, on which the pact was inked on Tuesday, fall in Meghalaya’s West Khasi Hills, Ri Bhoi and East Jaintia Hills districts and Assam’s Cachar, Kamrup Metro and Kamrup districts.
Steps to settle the boundary dispute gathered momentum after the border flare-up on July 26 last year with Mizoram, also carved out of Assam in 1972, that left six Assam policemen dead and over 45 injured.
On August 6 last year, Sarma and Sangma had constituted three regional committees each to jointly visit six of the 12 friction points and submit their recommendations to their respective governments to work out a final solution.
“This is a milestone in our collective efforts to strengthen cooperative federalism. Together, we’re committed to resolve all such legacy boundary issues very soon,” Sarma said.
While Assam has a BJP-led government, Meghalaya has a government headed by the National People’s Party, an ally of the BJP.
Sangma said history had been made with the signing of the agreement, a feat that was achieved because of the “guidance” of Union home minister Shah and Prime Minister Modi.
Sangma thanked the teamwork of Assam and Meghalaya and Sarma “for working together with us to reach this important milestone for both our states”.
The Meghalaya chief minister said the final boundary demarcation would be done by the Survey of India by taking the two states on board.
Besides Meghalaya, Assam is enmeshed in border disputes with Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram. Sarma said efforts were on to resolve the dispute with Arunachal Pradesh.
The Opposition Trinamul Congress on Tuesday accused the Meghalaya government of gifting huge tracts of tribal land along the interstate border to Assam while signing the pact.
Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council chief executive member Titostarwell Chyne said the outfit had written to the state government about the reservations of locals about the deal. It, however, added that the council considered the pact a welcome move.
Last week, a group of traditional bodies (Hima) administrating land in Ri Bhoi district had met Chyne to complain about the possible transfer of their plots to Assam.
Meghalaya Trinamul president Charles Pyngrope said: “I don’t know why the state government had to rush in this sensitive matter and go ahead with the memorandum of understanding with Assam. It is gifting huge tracts of tribal land along the interstate border to Assam without the consent of the landowners.”
“We have raised this issue in the just-concluded Assembly session and said we wanted the government to take everyone into confidence. We cannot stop them but we are concerned because there are resentments,” he said.
Additional reporting by Imran Ahmed Siddiqui in New Delhi and PTI