To solve border dispute, Assam, Arunachal to follow Meghalaya model
Assam and Arunachal Pradesh governments on Wednesday agreed to set up district-level committees headed by cabinet ministers to end the decades-old border dispute between the two northeastern states in a time-bound manner—a move similar to the one agreed upon by Assam and Meghalaya
Assam and Arunachal Pradesh governments on Wednesday agreed to set up district-level committees headed by cabinet ministers to end the decades-old border dispute between the two northeastern states in a time-bound manner—a move similar to the one agreed upon by Assam and Meghalaya.
The decision was taken at the second official meeting on the issue between Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his Arunachal Pradesh counterpart Pema Khandu in Guwahati on Wednesday. Senior ministers and bureaucrats from both states were also present.
“We decided to form district-level committees in both states to resolve the issue in a time-bound manner,” Sarma tweeted after the meeting. . “The district committees will undertake joint surveys in the disputed areas to find tangible solutions to the long-pending issue based on historical perspective, ethnicity, contiguity, peoples’ will and administrative convenience of both states. We have also finalised the terms of reference of the committees.”
Khandu mentioned that the meeting was very fruitful and there was positive enthusiasm from both sides. Wednesday’s meeting was the second one after both chief ministers had met in January this year and initiated preliminary talks of sorting out the border disputes.
“The positive enthusiasm for resolution on both sides is very encouraging. Grateful to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Amit Shah for their guidance and Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma for his proactive and positive leadership from the Assam side,” Khandu tweeted.
Giving details of the meeting, Assam border affairs minister Atul Bora said the same formula used to resolve the border dispute with Meghalaya would be followed with Arunachal Pradesh.
“There are 123 villages along the border between Assam and Arunachal which are in dispute and claimed by the latter. We decided to form 12 committees in each state,” said Bora. “These committees would conduct joint visit to all disputed areas and try and find resolution based on the terms of reference.”
Assam shares an 804-km boundary with Arunachal Pradesh. Though there was no issue initially, but over the years, allegations of residents of one state encroaching land on the other side have led to disputes and violence. A suit pertaining to the issue has been pending before the Supreme Court since 1989.
Last year, following insistence of PM Modi and home minister Amit Shah, both states had resolved to out-of-court settlement of their border dispute through dialogue.
The border dispute between the two states has its genesis in 1873 when the British started the inner-line regulation, creating an imaginary boundary between the plains and hill areas in north of Assam. The inner-line regulation, which still exists, requires people from outside Arunachal Pradesh, to take permits before entering the state.
This area ‘separated’ from Assam was initially called the North East Frontier Tracts and later North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) and was under administrative jurisdiction of Assam post-Independence.
In 1972, NEFA was renamed as Arunachal Pradesh and granted status of Union territory before becoming a full-fledged state in 1987. But before it got its present boundaries, a committee headed by former Assam chief minister Gopinath Bordoloi transferred around 3,650 sq km of territory, which was earlier with NEFA, to Assam.
This transfer done without consultations with the people or administration of NEFA is the main bone of contention between the two states, with Arunachal Pradesh refusing to recognise it.
Last month, Assam and Meghalaya CMs had inked a deal in New Delhi in presence of Shah to resolve six of the 12 points of dispute along their border.
The agreement between Assam and Meghalaya, which favours a give-and-take formula, was formulated after both states created several committees comprising ministers, visited the disputed areas and interacted with residents. According to the deal, Assam would get 18.51 sq km of the total 36.8 sq km disputed area while the rest would go to Meghalaya.
Besides Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh, Assam also has border disputes with Mizoram and Nagaland, which were also carved out of Assam.