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HomeOpinionHow tribe, culture arbitrary define Assam-Meghalaya raktcharitra

How tribe, culture arbitrary define Assam-Meghalaya raktcharitra

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Violence has once again flared up on the Assam-Meghalaya border. Six people were killed and several injured in the violence that broke out after Assam forest officials stopped a truck allegedly carrying illegal timber on the Assam-Meghalaya border in West Karbi Anglong district in the early hours of Tuesday (November 22). Forest workers are also among the deceased. While some people were carrying wood illegally in a truck from the forest adjacent to the border, they were stopped by the Forest Department team near Mukroh. A mob attacked from the Meghalaya side leading to violence breaking out. In no time, six people were killed in the clash. This is not the first time that there has been violence on the Assam-Meghalaya border. The dispute regarding the border between the two states is very old and it has been going on for the last five decades.
There are frequent reports of violence on the Assam-Meghalaya border regarding this dispute.
Assam has had border disputes from time to time with the states that were separated from it in the past. Be it Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya, or Mizoram. Last year, Assam and Mizoram police clashed in which five people from Assam were killed. In the border skirmishes in the northeastern states, dozens of people have been killed over the years.

Border dispute persistent for 50 years
In the same year, when Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to resolve inter-state border issues in the presence of Home Minister Amit Shah, it was claimed that the ongoing 50-year-old border dispute between Assam and Meghalaya was resolved. But from the latest situation, it does not seem that the issue of the border dispute between Assam and Meghalaya has been resolved. In July last year too, six people lost their lives in a violent clash between the police forces of Assam and Mizoram, after which both states formed committees to resolve the border dispute.

What is the Assam-Meghalaya border dispute?
Assam and Meghalaya share an 884.9-kilometer-long border and there is a dispute between the two over 12 areas. Because both states keep making their own claims in these areas, this is the reason why there are frequent clashes in these areas, and the police of both states also come at loggerheads. Meghalaya, which was carved out of Assam in 1972 as a state, challenged the Assam Reorganization Act, of 1971, leading to a dispute over 12 areas in different parts of the common border. These 12 disputed areas are Tarabari, Langpih, Borduar, Gijang Reserved Forest, Bokalapara, Hahim, Nongwah, Matmoor, Khanapara-Pilangkata, Deshdemorah Block One, Block 2, Retchera and Khanduli.

Langpih district is the real reason for the dispute
A major point of contention between Assam and Meghalaya is Langpih district in the West Garo Hills bordering Assam’s Kamrup district. Langpih was a part of Kamrup district during the British colonial period but after independence, it became a part of Garo Hills and Meghalaya. However, while Assam considers it a part of its state’s Mikir Hills (Karbi Anglong area located in Assam), Meghalaya maintains that the area was earlier part of the United Khasi and Jaintia Hills district, hence it is a part of the state.

Agreement has been reached regarding the dispute at 6 places
The latest violent clash on the border of Assam and Meghalaya took place in Langpih (Meghalaya), situated in the West Garo Hills region. The border of this district is adjacent to the Kamrup district of Assam and this is the reason why there is often a dispute here. In the past, both Assam and Meghalaya have constituted Border Dispute Settlement Committees. Six sites were considered in the first phase, which are Tarabari, Gijang, Hahim, Baklapara, Khanapara-Pilingkata and Ratchera. Assam and Meghalaya signed an agreement in March this year to resolve their five-decade-old border dispute at the above six out of 12 places.

Assam has a dispute with other states too?
Assam shares a 2743-kilometer border with Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and West Bengal. Apart from Meghalaya, it also has border disputes with Nagaland, Mizoram, and Manipur. In July 2021, there was a fierce armed conflict between personnel of Assam and Meghalaya Police in the Cachar district of Assam. Six Assam Police personnel were killed in clashes with Mizoram policemen, after which the Center had to intervene in the matter.

Agreement signed in 2022 to resolve border dispute
In early 2022, the Chief Ministers of Assam and Meghalaya Himanta Biswa Sarma and Conrad Kongkal Sangma signed an agreement in Delhi. After this, the state boundary of 6 of the 12 most disputed areas has been fixed. Home Minister Amit Shah was also present during this meeting. Under this agreement, the governments of Assam and Meghalaya agreed to resolve border disputes in 6 out of 12 areas along the border. In the proposal sent to settle the 36.79 sq km land dispute, Assam was given 18.51 sq km while Meghalaya was given 18.28 sq km. This entire land is spread over about 36 villages.

Communities confidence, limits adjustment vital
Union Home Minister Amit Shah had asked Assam to take initiative to resolve those old disputes. The maps of these states were drawn during the colonial period, ignoring the way of life of the local people. The hunting, grazing and farming grounds of the people were divided into modern administrative boundaries. These concerns became more serious after the formation of the new state. The demand for a unified homeland of the Nagas has now reached beyond the boundaries of Nagaland. It’s unfortunate and sad that these states are involved in violent clashes with each other which are part of the Indian Union. The Bharatiya Janata Party is now in power in most of the states in the North East and now has the necessary environment to comprehensively resolve all the old disputes in the region. The communities have to be taken into confidence and the limits have to be adjusted. In no case should these man-made lines be allowed to restrict the movement of people for the sake of livelihood.

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