Assam, Nagaland discuss ways to end decades-old border row

Chief Secretary-level meeting held after almost six years

After almost six years, the governments of Assam and Nagaland on Friday held a high-level meeting towards settling a boundary dispute that has claimed more than 100 lives since 1965.

The two States called for maintaining neutrality of forces guarding the disputed stretches and improving cooperation to check drug-trafficking, movement of extremists and other criminal activities such as wildlife trade.

“The Assam government proposed joint patrolling by police personnel of both the States with Central forces along the inter-State border. The Nagaland government has accepted our proposal in principle,” said Assam’s Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna after the meeting with his Nagaland counterpart Temjen Toy.

Assam’s Director General of Police Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta and his Nagaland counterpart T.J. Longkumer also attended the meeting, along with other top administrative and police officers of the two States at a police facility near Nagaland’s commercial hub Dimapur.

Apart from drawing up the standard operating procedure for guarding the disputed area belt, the two governments underlined the need to strengthen coordination between the Superintendents of Police of the border districts for prompt action against criminals and anti-social activities that add to the border tension.

Uneasy boundaries

Despite alleged infiltration, cross-border crime and movement of insurgents, Assam’s international boundary – 267.5 km with Bangladesh and 265.8 km with Bhutan – has been much quieter than its internal borders.

At least 350 people have lost their lives along Assam’s 2,741.3-km border with six other north-eastern States and West Bengal. Since 1965, a majority of these people died along the 512.1-km boundary with Nagaland.

The Assam government had in the past blamed the border dispute on Nagaland’s refusal to accept constitutional boundaries recommended by commissions set up by the Supreme Court. One such for the Assam-Nagaland border in 1971 was headed by K.V.K. Sundaram, the then Law Commission chairman.

Assam’s neighbours have been insisting on historical boundaries that go back to the period before 1826 when the British annexed Assam and included the hills as its provinces.

Meghalaya, for instance, challenged the Assam Reorganisation Act of 1971, claiming two blocks in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district belonged to the erstwhile United Khasi and Jaintia Hills created in 1835.

Assam, which too has rejected suggestions from SC-appointed mediators, says its neighbours have encroached upon more than 75,000 hectares of land. Revenue records of the Assam government say Nagaland encroached upon 19,819.62 hectares, Arunachal Pradesh 5,756.02 hectares and Meghalaya 65.62 hectares since 2001.

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