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The Assam-Meghalaya Boundary Dispute Resolution

Context:

Two months after signing a draft resolution on January 29, Assam and Meghalaya partially resolved a 50-year-old dispute along their 884.9 km boundary.

Relevance:

GS II- Polity and Governance (Federalism)

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. Details
  2. About Assam-Meghalaya boundary Dispute
  3. Will the partial settlement impact border disputes elsewhere in the Northeast?
  4. Assam’s border dispute with Arunachal
  5. About the Assam – Mizoram Border Dispute
Details
  • An agreement in this regard, termed historic, was signed between Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his Meghalaya counterpart Conrad K. Sangma in the presence of Home Minister Amit Shah.
  • The agreement is expected to pave the way for resolving disputes in the remaining sectors of the Assam-Meghalaya boundary and similar areas of difference between Assam and three other northeastern States.

About Assam-Meghalaya boundary Dispute:

  • Meghalaya, carved out of Assam as an autonomous State in 1970, became a full-fledged State in 1972.
  • The creation of the new State was based on the Assam Reorganisation (Meghalaya) Act of 1969, which the Meghalaya government refused to accept.
  • This was because the Act followed the recommendations of a 1951 committee to define the boundary of Meghalaya.
  • On that panel’s recommendations, areas of the present-day East Jaintia Hills, Ri-Bhoi and West Khasi Hills districts of Meghalaya were transferred to the Karbi Anglong, Kamrup (metro) and Kamrup districts of Assam.
  • Meghalaya contested these transfers after statehood, claiming that they belonged to its tribal chieftains. Assam said the Meghalaya government could neither provide documents nor archival materials to prove its claim over these areas.
  • After claims and counter-claims, the dispute was narrowed down to 12 sectors on the basis of an official claim by Meghalaya in 2011.

Will the partial settlement impact border disputes elsewhere in the Northeast?

  • According to the partial boundary deal, Assam will get 18.51 sq. km of the 36.79 sq. km disputed area while Meghalaya will get the remaining 18.28 sq. km.
  • There is no clarity yet on the villages or uninhabited stretches that would be divided, but some political parties and community-based groups in Meghalaya are unhappy about acceding any part of the disputed areas to Assam.
  • Reactions are similar in Assam, where the opposition Congress and local organisations said the agreement boiled down to how much land Assam could save from “aggressor” Meghalaya.
  • But officials in Assam said it was better to let go of areas where they did not have any administrative control rather than “live with an irritant forever”.
  • However, residents in the other six disputed sectors — Langpih, Borduar, Nongwah, Matamur, Deshdemoreah Block I and Block II, and Khanduli — feel the “give-and-take” template could spell disaster for them.
  • The fear is more among non-tribal people who could end up living in a “tribal Meghalaya with no rights for us”.
  • The apprehension is similar for residents of Assam in disputed areas along the border with other States. According to a paper tabled in the Assam Assembly in August 2014, six neighbouring States control 77,531.71 hectares of Assam land.
  • Apart from Meghalaya, the other States are Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and West Bengal.

Assam’s border dispute with Arunachal

  • Assam Chief Minister disclosed that the state’s boundary dispute with Arunachal Pradesh was at 1,200 places.
  • Arunachal Pradesh shares a 800-km boundary with Assam and was granted statehood by the State of Arunachal Pradesh Act, 1986 in 1987. Clashes were first reported in 1992 and since then, there have been several accusations of illegal encroachment from both sides, and intermittent clashes.
  • Cases pertaining to Assam’s boundary dispute with Nagaland and Arunachal are pending in the Supreme Court.
  • There was a clear delineation of the boundary when Uttarakhand and Jharkhand were created as states. However, when Mizoram, Arunachal, and Nagaland were created, it was left to certain situations and the ambiguity remained, leading to the disputes.
  •  Miscreants allegedly fired at Assam Forest officials in November 2021 near the Arunachal Pradesh border.
  • A few days prior to which a team of Assam Forest officials were detained by allegedly illegal settlers from Arunachal Pradesh in the forest. They were later rescued by the Assam police.
  • The firing coincided with the visit of the members of the border committees of Assam and Meghalaya to various areas of difference along the inter-State boundary.
  • There was a mixed response from the locals the committee members met. A majority in some villages wanted to be with Meghalaya while most in some other villages wanted to be with Assam.

About the Assam – Mizoram Border Dispute

  • Mizoram borders Assam’s Barak Valley and the boundary between present-day Assam and Mizoram is 165 km long. Both states border Bangladesh.
  • The boundary issue between present-day Assam and Mizoram dates back to the colonial era when inner lines were demarcated according to the administrative needs of British Raj.
  • Assam became a constituent state of India in 1950 and lost much of its territory to new states that emerged from within its borders between the early 1960s and the early 1970s.
  • Mizoram was granted statehood in 1987 by the State of Mizoram Act, 1986.
  • The Assam-Mizoram dispute stems from a notification of 1875 that differentiated Lushai Hills (During colonial times, Mizoram was known as Lushai Hills) from the plains of Cachar, and another of 1933 that demarcates a boundary between Lushai Hills and Manipur.
  • Mizoram believes the boundary should be demarcated on the basis of the 1875 notification, which is derived from the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) Act, 1873.
  • According to an agreement between the governments of Assam and Mizoram, the status quo should be maintained in no man’s land in the border area.
  • In the Northeast’s complex boundary equations, clashes between Assam and Mizoram residents are less frequent than they are between other neighbouring states of Assam, like with Nagaland.

Assam-Nagaland: Nagaland shares a 500-km boundary with Assam and achieved statehood in December 1963 and was formed out of the Naga Hills district of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh (then North-East Frontier Agency). Violent clashes and armed conflicts, marked by killings, have occurred on the Assam-Nagaland border since 1965.

-Source: The Hindu

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