Sarma, Sangma agree to resolve border dispute in a phased manner
The Assam and Meghalaya governments on Friday agreed to form three committees to resolve their long pending boundary dispute in a phased manner with the initial focus on the less complicated areas of contention.
Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his Meghalaya counterpart Conrad Sangma, in a meeting in Guwahati, said the committees will be headed by ministers of both the states and will have five members from each side, including Cabinet ministers, bureaucrats and local representatives.
“Both governments are clear that we want to resolve the differences between the states. There is a strong political will to find an amicable solution. Both agreed that the disputes should be resolved in a respectful manner,” Sangma said.
This is the second meeting between the two chief ministers who earlier met in Meghalaya on July 23 to discuss the issue. While Meghalaya had already made a presentation on their views at the meeting in Shillong, the Assam government did the same on Friday.
“The strategy we have decided to follow is to take up the matter in a phased manner. There are areas which are less complicated, some slightly more and some very complicated,” Sangma said.
Of the 12 disputed areas, the six which will be taken up for discussion in the first phase are Tarabari, Gizang, Hahim, Boklapara, Khanapara-Pilangkata and Ratacherra. The areas fall under Kamrup, Kamrup (Metropolitan) and Cachar districts of Assam and West Khasi Hills, Ri Bhoi and East Jaintia Hills districts of Meghalaya.
The remaining six areas of dispute are Langpih, Khanduli-Psiar, Deshdemoreah, Nogwah, Mawtamur and Borduar.
“We don’t have any dispute from the Assam side but the problem arose because Meghalaya claimed certain territories in these 12 locations. When we met in Shillong, we agreed that all disputes can’t be resolved in one go and we need to take them up in a step-by-step manner. Once the six disputes are resolved, we will move on to the others,” Sarma said.
“The committees will focus on historical facts, ethnicity, administrative convenience, sentiment of local residents and contiguity. Based on these parameters, they will try to find a way forward. The committees will make joint visits to the areas and submit their reports within the next 30 days,” Sangma said.
Sarma and Sangma will also visit some of the disputed areas within the next thirty days, especially Langpih, one of the most disputed of the 12 areas.
Based on reports of the three committees, the issue will be taken up at the chief minister’s level for a permanent resolution.
“Resolution of the disputes should not require redrawing of boundaries. We believe the disputes are due to problems of perception on both sides. We are attempting to align our perceptions… But if in the process, any redrawing is necessary, the matter will have to be sent to the Centre and it can be done by Parliament,” Sarma said.
Meghalaya was carved out of Assam in 1972. Over the years, differences have cropped up regarding the boundary and resulted in skirmishes among various communities inhabiting the border areas.
Besides Meghalaya, Assam is also facing border disputes with Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. Separate suits are pending in the Supreme Court for a resolution to the row with Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland.
On Thursday, Assam and Mizoram agreed to withdraw forces from all disputed border areas and work towards lasting peace in the first meeting between the two states since an unprecedented gunbattle on July 26 killed six policemen and injured 41 others.
Last week, Assam and Nagaland signed an agreement on maintaining the status quo along the borders.
Last month, both Sarma and Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu had said that the two states would try to resolve the border dispute out of court.