Border Row: Why Assam is entangled in Disputes with NE States

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The interstate border conflict has been affecting Assam’s 23 districts out of 35 districts.
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Border Row: Why Assam is entangled in Disputes with NE States
Border Row: Why Assam is entangled in Disputes with NE States

Guwahati: In a bid to take forward the efforts of resolving the inter-state border dispute, Assam and Mizoram chief ministers were likely to hold talks on September 19, said an official on Friday.

Earlier on Thursday, union home minister Amit Shah has asked both the governments of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh to resolve the inter-state border dispute at the earliest. And that’s not all; Assam has been working to resolve its border disputes with other northeastern states like Meghalaya and Nagaland too.

Curved out of Assam after Independence, all these northeastern states were continuing to witness border disputes, sometimes violent, along their inter-state boundaries. Thanks to ‘faulty’ map lines combined with locals’ perceptions of traditional boundaries.

Union home minister Amit Shah said, “The Central government wishes that the border disputes amongst the northeastern states will be resolved within 2024. Already progress has been made and dialogues are ongoing in positive direction.”

The interstate border conflict has been affecting Assam’s 23 districts out of 35 districts.

Assam-Nagaland Border Disputes:

The boundary conflict between Assam and Nagaland has a long history and became worse in 1963 when Nagaland became a separate state.

Before India gained independence, the Naga National Council (NNC) had demanded the return of the territories which formed part of Naga Hills District. This demand was included in the Nine Point Agreement signed between Governor of Assam Akbar Hydari and the NNC in June 1947.

Akbar Hydari stated in Clause 6 “…the present administrative divisions should be modified so as to bring back into the Naga Hills District all the forest transferred to Sibsagar and Nowgoan districts in the past and to bring under the unified administrative unit, as far as possible, all Nagas. All areas so included be within the scope of the present proposed agreement. No area should be transferred out of the Naga Hills without the consent of the Naga Hills/without the consent of the Naga National Council.”

The Agreement mentions bringing back all the forests transferred to Sibsagar and Nowgong (Nagaon) districts as well as all the Naga-inhabited contiguous areas to Naga Hills District.

The restoration of the “Naga areas” was raised again and placed on record under an agreement signed between the Union government and the Naga People’s Convention (NPC) in 1960.

As is evident, the Government of India did not take any action on this demand but decided to confer statehood to the Nagas to achieve their political aspirations.

The newly formed state government of Nagaland, however, refused to accept the boundary delineation and insisted that Nagaland should include all of the regions that were under the control of the Naga people in North Cachar and Nowgong (Nagaon) districts as well as the former Naga Hills. Nagaland demands a total of 12,488 sq. km. of Assamese land, which includes 10 Reserve Forests.

As encroachments increased, tensions between Assam and Nagaland flared up resulting in the first border clashes in 1965. In June 1968, a clash between government forces and militants resulted in the deaths of at least 150.
Violent clashes along the Assam–Nagaland border have become a regular feature, with major armed conflicts reported in 1979, 1985 and the latest in 2014.

The Assam government had filed a case in the Supreme to resolve the border dispute and for a permanent injunction restraining Nagaland from encroaching areas within the constitutional boundary of Assam.

Assam-Mizoram Border Disputes:

Mizoram was separated from Assam in 1972 and became a union territory before becoming a state in its own right in 1987.

The North-Eastern Areas (Reorganisation) Act of 1971, which in turn is based on Notification No. 2106 AP dated 9 March 1933, establishes the border between the two states. The Assam government attempted to define the border between Assam and the Lushai Hills District in the 1950s, but its efforts were put on hold when miscreants from Mizoram set fire to the office of the Assam survey department.

The first major cases of a border dispute between the two states came to the fore in 1994, when Mizoram objected to Assam’s attempt to extend its control over the Reserve Forests. Major clashes along the border broke out in 2006, 2018, 2020, and more recently in 2021.

In 2021, Assam-Mizoram witnessed periodical upheavals where six Assam policemen died and over 70 injured. The clash was the culmination of tension between locals of Lailapur village in Assam’s Cachar district and neighbouring Vairengte village in Mizoram’s Kolasib district.

Assam-Arunachal Pradesh Border Disputes:

The boundary dispute between the two states came to the fore after the establishment of Arunachal Pradesh as a Union Territory in 1972.

The process of demarcation of the boundary between Assam and Arunachal started in 1972 and by 1979, 396 km of the boundary was demarcated. However, a number of anomalies and disputes regarding the border surfaced during the survey. As a result, the process of demarcation had to be suspended.

When Arunachal Pradesh declined to accept the 1951 notification as the basis for boundary delineation, a border conflict between the two states developed. On Assam’s former Chief Minister Gopinath Bordoloi Committee’s advice, a total of 3,648 sq. km. of the plain region, which included the current Darrang, Dhemaji, and Jonoi districts, was ceded to Assam in April 1951.

Arunachal argues that the plain area was transferred to Assam without the consent of its people. It claims that the people of Arunachal Pradesh have traditional and customary rights over these lands which were also recognised by the British as well as the Ahom rulers. The Assam government, however, argues that the boundary is constitutional and cannot be altered.

Recently, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his Arunachal Pradesh counterpart Pema Khandu signed an agreement to end border issues between the two states and decided to “restrict” the number of disputed villages to 86 instead of 123.

Assam-Meghalaya Border Disputes:

Meghalaya was carved out of Assam as an autonomous state in 1970 and became a full-fledged state in 1972.
The Assam Reorganisation (Meghalaya) Act of 1969 is the cause of the border issue, which the Meghalaya government refuses to acknowledge. There are now 12 areas of contention along the Meghalaya-Assam boundary, totaling 2,765.14 square kilometres.

Blocks I and II of the Jaintia Hills were moved to the Mikir Hill (Karbi Anglong) District of Assam in April 1951, and portions of the Garo Hills were moved to the Goalpara District of Assam, per the recommendations of the Bordoloi Committee.

Additionally, the adjacent Ri Bhoi District territories were moved to Assam’s Kamrup District. These transfers are reiterated in the 1969 Reorganisation Act, which also defines the boundaries of Meghalaya.

In a breakthrough, the two states had signed a memorandum of understanding for ending the five-decade-old border dispute in six of the 12 disputed areas in New Delhi in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

On March 29, the first phase resolve 6 out of 12 areas of differences. As per the agreement, out of the 36.79 sq km area taken up for resolution in the first phase, Assam will get 18.46 sq km and Meghalaya 18.33 sq km.

Meanwhile, the second phase of the border talks between Assam and Meghalaya has commenced resolving the remaining six areas of differences — Khanduli and Psiar, Block 1 & Block 2, Borduar, Langpih, Nongwah-Mawtamur, and Desh Doreah.

Meanwhile, several attempts at resolving these disputes have been unsuccessful indicating the collective failure of Union and state governments.

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