A tribal council in Meghalaya has joined the list of individuals and organisations in opposing the State government’s deal with Assam to resolve a 50-year-old boundary dispute.
- The Assam and Meghalaya governments had on March 29 finalised the pact to divide 36.79 sq. km of disputed areas. The two governments had taken up six of 12 disputed sectors in the first phase of discussions.
GS II- Polity and Governance (Federalism)
Dimensions of the Article:
- About Assam-Meghalaya boundary Dispute
- Will the partial settlement impact border disputes elsewhere in the Northeast?
- The Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) claimed that the disputed areas belong to private parties and the Meghalaya government has neither the authority nor the right to hand them over to Assam.
- The Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council is one of three tribal councils in Meghalaya created under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. Each of them function as a government within a specified territory.
- Apart from the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council, some traditional institutions such as Hima (a Khasi state) and villagers not keen on being tagged with Assam have threatened to go to court if the Meghalaya government cannot review the boundary deal.
- The Meghalaya government has said the agreement, based on a list of disputed sectors submitted to Assam in 2011, cannot be revisited. The deal remains to be ratified by Parliament and the Assemblies of the two States concerned before the boundary is redrawn.
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.
-Source: The Hindu