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August 13, 2021

NE borders not demarcated conclusively to ensure that there is no united NE : Himanta

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma Friday said that demarcation of borders of the north eastern states was not done conclusively by those then in power to ensure that there is no united NE. It is in the interest of the region that the north eastern states should unite and resolve the disputes among themselves as otherwise they will be at the losing end, he said in a statement in state Assembly on the border disputes between Assam and the neighbouring states of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland. The boundaries of these NE states, which were carved out post-Independence, were never properly demarcated. When the borders were re-drawn, the disputes over territories between the states were ignored, he said. “This was done so that the region continues to be embroiled in disputes and there can be no united north east,” he said. Stating that he did not want to make a political issue out of it, Sarma, however, pointed out that no ambiguity was left when other state boundaries were drawn and re-drawn in the country. In this context he named states like Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Telengana. Making a pitch for resolving the border disputes, Sarma said, “If we continue with the disputes we will be at the losing end. Assam wil lose if we can’t build a united north east.” “Assam had never opposed when Nagaland, Mizoram Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh were carved out of our territory. Those in the government then should have written off the territories as claimed by the states that were carved out. There was no opposition back then,” he said. “We are now left with a situation where there are no boundary pillars even,” the chief minister said. Besides, due to the boder disputes between Assam and the four neighbouring states, people from outside the region assume that it is acting as the proverbial “big brother”. The chief minister said that the border disputes between the north eastern states were due to difference of perception over “constitutional” boundary. “The constitutional boundary is per the Survey of India map. Our disputes arise when claim over territory contradictory to the constitutional boundary is made based on historical background”. Some states claim certain parts of Assam territory as their own based on the assertion that kings of yesteryears had given them right over those parts. “But we have to abide by the constitutional boundary,” Sarma said. On the present status of border disputes between Assam and NE states, the chief minister said talks with Mizoram can progress only when the current situation defuses. There is deep resentment against Mizoram at the moment due to the recent hostilities that had left six Assam Police personnel and one civilian dead in Cachar on July 26. He said Mizoram has at different points of time claimed the Inner Line Reserve Forest in Barak Valley of Assam as its territory, which had led to the confrontation. Mizoram had tried to push the boundary at different places in Assam since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic last year on the pretext of setting up COVID-19 testing centres, Sarma claimed. He pointed out that two lower primary schools in Assam were bombed by miscreants from Mizoram last year while the government of that state was refusing to sign an agreement mediated by the Centre to maintain status quo along the border. Mizoram, he said, has set the condition that Assam allow its residents to carry out economic (farming) activities inside Assam. Assam is not agreeable to it. The July 26 incident clash took place when Assam police and government officials went to meet their Mizoram counterpart over construction of roads inside Assam territory and allied issues, the chief minister said. Steps were taken to defuse the situation and an ”economic blockade” enforced by the people of bordering Assam districts has been removed, he said adding the border security has also been strengthened by the government. “A PIL has been filed in Gauhati High Court. The DGPs of both the states have been asked to file affidavits. We shall inform the court of what we saw,” he added. On the boundary dispute with Nagaland, Sarma said the matter is before the Supreme Court and though some skirmishes had taken place in July end in Dessoi Valley area along the inter-state border, both states have taken steps to bring the situation under control. Both states have withdrawn forces from the area and agreed to carry out surveillance using drones, he added. A similar decision of deploying drones for surveying disputed areas on the Assam-Meghalaya border was taken at a meeting with Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma earlier this month, the chief minister said. “There is no historical or constitutional clash with Meghalaya. There are 12 points of disputes and we have decided to resolve six such points initially,” he said. “Once Meghalaya issues are resolved, we shall move forward with the problems with Arunachal Pradesh. Informal talks are already progressing between the two states,” Sarma said adding that there are 1200 points of disputes with that state. At the end of the chief minister’s statement, Congress leader and deputy Leader of Opposition Rakibul Hussain urged Sarma to hold an all-party meeting to explain in detail the border disputes and progress in talks. The chief minister agreed to it. Hussain said that a message from the Assembly that it was united in resolving the border issues should go to the public, to which the opposition party AIUDF extended its support. PTI

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