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Assam And Meghalaya Have Finally Reached A Historic Border Settlement

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Assam and Meghalaya signed an agreement to resolve an inter-state border dispute unsettled for the last five decades. Meghalaya was carved out as a separate state from Assam in 1972. It challenged the Assam Reorganisation Act, 1971, leading to the dispute in 12 locations in the border areas. In recent times, the efforts to resolve the boundary dispute have gained pace.

Since July last year, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his Meghalaya counterpart Conrad Sangma have been in talks to resolve the long-standing border dispute along its 884 km-long border. The pact was signed in the presence of Union minister Amit Shah and the two chief ministers.

“It is a historic day for the Northeast,” Shah said at the function held at the Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi. He appreciated the strong political will was shown by the two chief ministers. He also affirmed that the Central Government would strive to make the Northeast dispute-free after discussions with all the states.“This agreement exemplifies cooperative federalism and will provide a roadmap for resolution of other border disputes between states,” he said.

However, Meghalaya’s Langpih district, bordering the Kamrup district of Assam, in West Garo Hills, is a major point of contention between the two neighboring states that remain to be resolved. Another point of contention is the Mikir Hills, which Assam considers as its integral part. Meghalaya has questioned Blocks I and II of the Hills; now the Karbi Anglong region- being part of Assam. Meghalaya says these were parts of erstwhile United Khasi and Jaintia Hills districts.

The two states had formed three committees each in August last year to settle the debated boundary question. The constitution of the panels had followed two rounds of talks between Sarma and Sangma where the neighboring states settled the dispute in a phased manner.

Ministerial-level regional committees formed by both states made frequent visits to the disputed areas and submitted reports based on five mutually agreed principles: historical perspective, ethnicity of the local population, contiguity with boundary, people’s will, and administrative convenience.

Six points, including Tarabari, Gijang, Hahim, Baklapara, Khanapara-Pilingkata and Ratacherra, were taken up in the first phase of border settlement.The six areas have relatively less critical differences and hence were taken up first.

Tuesday’s agreement was based on the final set of recommendations made jointly by both states. Out of 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.

The next step will involve delineation and demarcation of the boundary by the Survey of India in the presence of representatives of both state governments. It will then be put up in Parliament for approval. The process may take a few months, they said.

References: Hindustan Times, Indian Express

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