The chief ministers of Assam and Meghalaya on March 29th have signed a memorandum of understanding to settle a portion of their five-decade-old Assam-Meghalaya border dispute.
In the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the chief ministers of Assam and Meghalaya signed a pact to resolve a portion of their five-decade-old boundary dispute. The 884-kilometre border between the two states has seen numerous flare-ups over the years.
Assam-Meghalaya root of Conflict
Undivided Assam included present-day Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, and Mizoram during British rule.
Meghalaya was formed in 1972, with its borders drawn up according to the Assam Reorganisation (Meghalaya) Act of 1969, but the state has had a different interpretation of the border ever since.
The Meghalaya government identified 12 areas of difference with Assam in 2011, covering approximately 2,700 square kilometres.
Some of these disagreements stem from the Assam-Meghalaya dispute from recommendations made by a 1951 committee led by Gopinath Bordoloi, the then-chief minister of Assam.
For example, the Bordoloi Committee recommended that Blocks I and II of the Jaintia Hills (Meghalaya) be transferred to the Mikir Hill (Karbi Anglong) district of Assam, as well as some areas from Meghalaya’s Garo Hills to the Goalpara district of Assam, according to a 2008 research paper from the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.
The 1969 Act is based on these recommendations, which Meghalaya rejects, claiming that the Khasi–Jaintia Hills originally owned these lands.
Assam, on the other hand, claims that Meghalaya lacks the necessary documents to prove that these areas were once part of the state.
A number of attempts to resolve the boundary dispute had been made in the past. In 1985, former Chief Justice of India Y V Chandrachud convened an official committee to resolve the issue under the leadership of Assam Chief Minister Hiteswar Saikia and Meghalaya Chief Minister Captain W A Sangma.
However, no solution was discovered.
Assam-Meghalaya current pact
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his Meghalaya counterpart Conrad Sangma have been in talks to resolve the long-running Assam-Meghalaya dispute since July of last year.
In the first phase, both state governments identified six of the 12 Assam-Meghalaya disputed areas for resolution: three between Meghalaya’s West Khasi Hills district and Assam’s Kamrup, two between Meghalaya’s RiBhoi and Kamrup-Metro, and one between Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills and Assam’s Cachar.
Following a series of meetings and team visits to the Assam-Meghalaya disputed areas, both parties submitted reports based on five mutually agreed-upon principles: historical perspective, ethnicity of the local population, boundary proximity, people’s will, and administrative convenience.
A final set of recommendations was made jointly: Assam would get full control of 18.46 sq km of disputed land taken up for settlement in the first phase, while Meghalaya would get full control of 18.33 sq km.
The Assam-Meghalaya boundary will be delineated and demarcated by the Survey of India in the presence of representatives from both governments as the next step. After that, it will be presented to Parliament for approval. It’s possible that the procedure will take a few months.
Officials said the first phase of the study focused on six areas that did not have significant differences and were thus easier to resolve. “The remaining six areas are more complex and may take longer to resolve,” said an Assam government official.