Betel nuts trigger Assam-Megalaya turf war | india | Hindustan Times
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Betel nuts trigger Assam-Megalaya turf war

Border battles in the Northeast are often fought for ridiculous reasons. Betel nuts apparently triggered the last major one between Assam and Meghalaya. Rahul Karmakar reports.

india Updated: Dec 18, 2010 23:57 IST
Rahul Karmakar

Four people died in one of the several fierce border clashes in the North-East on May 14 this year. The reason: some people from Assam refused to pay for betel nuts taken from a border village, called Lampi in Assam and Langpih in Meghalaya.

The village, 60 km west of Guwahati, straddles Kamrup district of Assam and West Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya.

A Meghalaya tribal council member blamed people from Assam for the clash on Thursday while deposing before the commission of enquiry, headed by retired judge PC Phukan.

He said: "As always, Langpih hosted a weekly market on that day. Hooligans from the other side (Assam) had betel nuts from one of our vendors but refused to pay for them. They fled the market as the vendors tried to get their due. Later, they returned with Assam policemen who began firing on the vendors."

The tribal council member, KP Pangiang’s statement contradicted affidavits filed by the Kamrup district police chief and deputy commissioner. The two officers said people from Meghalaya 'instigated’ the firing.

Officials said it was one of many border rows between northeastern states, which often caused more deaths than international border disputes with Bangladesh, China and Myanmar.

The Assam-Nagaland border row, for instance, claimed more than 450 lives since 1963. Four districts of Assam — Sivasagar, Golaghat, Jorhat and Karbi Anglong — share a 500-km-long border with Nagaland.

Assam claims more than 55,000 hectares of land, including vast forest tracts, are under occupation of the Naga people. Eviction drives led to bloody clashes in 1979 and 1985 in the Merapani area of Golaghat district.