Time to resolve interstate boundary disputes

Monday Musing

[ M Doley ]

The pact signed between Assam and Meghalaya to resolve their decades-old boundary disputes in six of the 12 disputed areas is indeed a big and bold step forward.

This has not only exhibited a strong political will of the chief ministers of both the states but also set the ball rolling for the other states with similar issues.

After clinching the deal, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that he wishes to take the same model forward for solving similar issues with Arunachal Pradesh.

According him, there are as many as 1,200 points of dispute along the 800-km boundary between the two states.

Since the boundary disputes between the two states are still pending in the Supreme Court, the chief ministers of both the states agreed to settle the disputes outside the court. The proposal for the out-of-court settlement was made by Arunachal’s chief minister when his Assam counterpart had visited Arunachal to attend a road inauguration programme in Kimin last year. Thereafter, both the chief ministers met in Guwahati in January this year and decided to conduct a ground-level survey on the boundary status.

Last month, the high-powered ministerial committee on the boundary dispute constituted by the Arunachal Pradesh government submitted its recommendations, which will be the basis for further discussions with Assam. These recommendations were made after extensive ground exercises carried out by the DCs of the 12 districts that share a boundary with Assam. During the process, all the disputed areas and locations were physically visited and reviewed in consultations with political and student leaders, NGOs and locals of the areas.

AAPSU general secretary Tobom Dai said that there is a clear-cut instruction from the home minister that all boundary disagreements, especially between the northeastern states, must be resolved immediately.

He said this is a golden opportunity and the best time to resolve the vexed interstate boundary issue and this opportunity must not be allowed to slip out of hand.

The student leader said that he extensively toured all the disputed locations in the state during his association with the AAPSU for more than 14 years and has seen the plight of the dwellers in the boundary areas.

He exuded confidence that, under the leadership of the chief ministers of both the states, the boundary disputes will be resolved amicably within this year.

The main issue of the disagreement between the two states is the Bordoloi Committee Report of 1951, based on which around 3,648 sq kms of the plain areas of Balipara and Sadiya foothills were transferred from the erstwhile NEFA to Assam’s then Darrang and Lakhimpur districts.

Arunachal refuses to accept it as the basis of demarcation and maintains that the transfer was made without consulting its people.

The dispute finally reached the Supreme Court in 1989, when Assam filed a case in the apex court, seeking demarcation of the boundary. The SC-appointed local boundary commission submitted its report in 2014. The commission made several recommendations, including a suggestion to both the states to arrive at a consensus through discussions.

But little or no headway towards resolving the vexed interstate boundary problems has been made so far by the successive governments of both the states; they have been making claims and counter-claims on the disputed areas, building infrastructures, posting police forces and carrying out eviction drives, resulting in frequent clashes and sour relationship between the people of the two states.

As per sources, the second round of the talks after the fresh initiative is likely to be held sometime in the current month.