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Frame a new map for development

The North-East border crises could have been minimised if land disputes were solved in time.

comment Updated: Aug 24, 2014 22:14 IST

Good fences make good neighbours. However, the same cannot be said about our North-eastern states, which have witnessed the death of hundreds of people in state border conflicts since the 1960s. In a clash on August 12, Naga tribesman raided 14 villages in Assam’s Golaghat district, bordering Nagaland, killing 12 and displacing at least 5,000 people. With militant groups taking sides, the situation turned into a full-blown confrontation where innocents were trapped. Though the curfew has been partially relaxed in Golaghat as the governments of Assam and Nagaland agreed to resolve the border row and jointly work out a solution starting with a meeting in the presence of Union minister of state, home affairs, Kiren Rijiju in Guwahati on Thursday, the move is a tad too late to resolve problems that have festered for decades. Assam and Nagaland have been claiming tracts of land as their own since the creation of Nagaland five decades ago and negotiations have failed to resolve the matter. Between the setting up of the Sundaram Commission (1971) and the Shastri Commission (1988), border skirmishes led to the Merapani incident in 1985 that resulted in the death of more than 100 people. The recommendations of the commissions were not accepted by the two states. In 2010 the Supreme Court directed that the issue be resolved through mediation. Four years on, nothing has really changed on the ground.

It is no one’s case that the two states should not talk. But the immediate focus should be to find effective mechanisms to defuse tensions and prevent violent clashes in the near future. And once there, efforts should be made to find a lasting solution. That Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Meghalaya are embroiled in border disputes with Assam, from which most of the seven sister states have been carved out should force the authorities to focus on the big picture, ie the stability in the North-east region, where militant groups fan inter-ethnic conflicts. The Centre and respective state governments must take this opportunity to work out long-term solutions to the long-pending border imbroglio. Besides cartographic differences, the answer to problems like the struggle over natural resources and displacement is overall development of the region and regional economic integration.

Here’s also a lesson for the future. Telangana, the newest state in the country, still does not have a map. The Centre must ensure that it does not leave any cartographic issue to be resolved later. This could create gridlocks in the future.