Angana Pal Chinya
In the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the chief ministers of Assam and Meghalaya inked an agreement on Tuesday to address a portion of the decades-old inter-state border issue. “This is a historic day for the North East,” Amit Shah stated.
Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, and Meghalaya were parts of Assam under British rule. They later became independent states. The boundary between Meghalaya and Assam changed when it was carved out of Assam in 1972. Along this 844 km long border, flare-ups have been reported frequently over the years. In all, there are twelve areas of dispute between the two states while the resolution of the first six is a significant development; the remaining six areas are more complex and may prove to be a more difficult challenge.
In the final set of recommendations made jointly by both the states at the beginning of this year, was the 36.79 sq km of the disputed area taken up for settlement in the first phase, Assam would get full control of 18.51 sq km and Meghalaya 18.28 sq km.
A survey of India (SoI) team will delineate and demarcate the boundaries in front of representatives from both governments as the next step in the process. After that, the proposal will be brought before Parliament. This could take several months, according to government officials.
After the initial meeting between Conrad Sangma and Himanta Biswa Sarma in July, five more meetings were held in the following months. In the following decade, ministerial-level regional committees were established by both states and visited the disputed areas frequently, bringing back reports based on five mutually agreed principles: historical perspective, ethnicity of the local population, contiguity with the boundary, people’s will, and administrative convenience.
The dispute between Assam and Meghalaya has been the subject of a number of attempts in the past. In 1985, an official committee was formed under the leadership of then-Supreme Court Chief Justice YV Chandrachud to resolve the issue between Hiteshwar Saikia, the then chief minister of Assam, and Captain WA Sangma, the then chief minister of Meghalaya. It was not possible to come up with a solution.