It is a historic day for the Northeast: Amit Shah
GUWAHATI: Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his Arunachal Pradesh counterpart Pema Khandu signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to resolve all boundary issues between the two states in New Delhi today in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah. The MoU put an end to the five-decade-long boundary disputes between the two states.
Amit Shah said, “It’s a historic day for the Northeast. The end to the 800-km boundary disputes between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh today is a big achievement.”
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said, “I congratulate the people of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The solution to the 50-year-long disputes is possible because of the guidance and initiatives taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.”
Khandu said, “This MoU will take forward the peaceful co-existence between the people of the two states. Apart from the initiative taken by the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister, the political will of Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has made this agreement possible. We have resolved the issues on the basis of the reports of the Local Boundary Commission formed by the Supreme Court of India.”
The MoU said, “Both the State Governments agree that this MoU shall be the full and final agreement in respect of the aforesaid 123 claimed villages... Both the state governments agree that no new claim area and village shall be added in the future beyond the already claimed 123 villages. Also, both governments agree to effectively prevent any new encroachment in the border areas.”
Shah said, “The issues had been left unsolved since 1972. However, we have resolved these problems today by taking all stakeholders from the two states into confidence. This MoU is a milestone for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of a dispute-free and peaceful Northeast. This agreement will open new vistas for development in the region. The Prime Minister always places great importance on the languages, cultures, and literatures of the Northeast, apart from the development of infrastructure in the region. The Prime Minister also played an important role in getting Bihu Dance into the Guinness Book of World Records.”
Assam Chief Minister Sarma said, “When I met Amit Shah soon after taking charge as the Chief Minister, he advised me to take up the issue of resolving the boundary disputes in the north-eastern states. And I am working in accordance with that advice. I hope we will sign similar agreements with Mizoram, Nagaland, and Meghalaya in the near future. This agreement is a great success in translating the Prime Minister’s ‘Ashtalakshmi’ dream into reality in the Northeast.”
The first chief ministerial-level meeting on July 15, 2022, at Namsai in Arunachal Pradesh resolved the disputes over 37 of the 123 disputed villages. In principle, it was agreed that 28 of the 37 villages that are within the constitutional boundary of Arunachal Pradesh will remain with Arunachal. Arunachal Pradesh, on the other hand, withdrew their claim over three villages: Deopani Naga Gaon, Bare Gaon, and Ponton Basti. These three villages would remain with Assam. The locations of six villages—Khelong, Foothill, Tani Hapa, Richi Rite, Nyijir Koche, and Ngopi—could not be located on the Assam side. Hence, if these villages exist on the Arunachal side, they will continue in Arunachal Pradesh.”
The 1951 notification said that about 3,648 square kilometres of the plain areas of Balipara and Sadia foothill were transferred from the erstwhile NEFA to the Lakhimpur and Darrang districts of Assam. However, Arunachal Pradesh felt that the transfer of land from NEFA was done without taking the local people into confidence, and Arunachal Pradesh still has customary rights over these lands. However, the Assam government believed that the 1951 notification was constitutional as well as legal. In 1984, Assam demarcated the boundary for 489 km of the 800 km border areas. However, Arunachal Pradesh prevented Assam from demarcating border areas further. In 1989, the Assam government moved the Supreme Court of India. In 2006, the apex court formed the Local Boundary Commission, headed by a retired judge of the top court. In 2014, the Boundary Commission submitted its report and suggested that both states should come to consensus. However, for various reasons, consensus continued to elude the two states.
Apart from the two chief ministers, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, ministers Atul Bora and Jayanta Mallabaruah, the Assam Chief Secretary, and other top-level officials of the State Government were present at the signing of the MoU.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma tweeted, ‘‘Out of 123 villages claimed by Arunachal Pradesh before the Local Commission in 2007, 71 have been amicably resolved so far. This includes 37 villages resolved through the Namsai Declaration on 15 July 2022 and 34 villages through this Memorandum of Understanding signed today. Out of these 71 villages, 1 village will be included in Assam from Arunachal Pradesh, 10 villages will continue in Assam and 60 villages will be included in Arunachal Pradesh from Assam. Out of the remaining 52 villages, the village boundary of 49 villages is to be finalized by the Regional Committees in next 6 months while 3 villages situated inside the IAF bombing range will require rehabilitation.’’