GUWAHATI: Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that all boundary disputes between Assam and its neighbouring states stemmed from the ambiguity in the concept of boundaries left behind while demarcating them.
Drawing a striking line, the Chief Minister said that no such problems crop up between Jharkhand and Uttrakhand as they have well-defined boundaries between them. However, while curbing out states from undivided Assam, the powers that be did not do that, leading to border skirmishes now and then.
"The problems lie in the fact that some of the neighbouring states don't accept the constitutional boundary as we don't accept their concept of the historical boundary. If such standoffs continue, unity in the Northeast will remain a far cry, so will economic development. Peace and development are interlinked. However, we are striving for amicable solutions with the neighbouring states. We hold talks on boundary disputes with them," he said.
Sarma said, "Cases on our boundary disputes with Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh are pending with the Supreme Court of India. Thus, out-of-the-court settlement of disputes is not possible with them. And solutions to the disputes with Mizoram will take time."
Sarma said this on Friday while responding to the Opposition's demand for a statement from the government on the inter-state border disputes.
The Chief Minister said, "Assam and Meghalaya have disputed at 12 points. In phase 1, we have taken up the disputes at six points. Each of the two states has formed three joint committees comprising ministers and bureaucrats to solve the problems at six points. The committees will visit the disputed spots next month and interact with the local people. The willingness of the local people to side with, administrative convenience of the local people, historical continuity etc., have much to do in the settlement of the disputes.
"The disputes at the other six points are critical. We will deal with them later. As and when we can settle the disputes in phase 1, we will erect border pillars."
On the disputes with Nagaland, Sarma said, "Border disputes erupted in Dessoi Valley recently. After the Assam-Mizoram border clash, the Nagaland government evinced interest not to let the situation escalate into one like the Assam-Mizoram border. We had chief secretary-level talks and reached agreements at some points. We have decided on an aerial survey by both sides with drones to maintain the status quo. Although a title suit is pending in the apex court, they respect historical boundaries, and we rely on the constitutional boundary.
"With Arunachal Pradesh also we have a case pending with the Supreme Court. We had differences of opinion in as many as 1,200 points. Most of the disputes reached an automatic solution. The remaining disputes are pending with the Supreme Court. And the disputes are based on the concept of historical and constitutional boundaries."
On disputes with Mizoram, Sarma said, "The problem lies in the fact that Mizoram sticks to the boundary of the British era inner-line forest and the historical boundary of their kingship. They defy our concept of the constitutional boundary.
"The July 26 violence has its roots to a Mizoram Corona check-post erected on Assam land. Since it was a Corona check-post, there was no opposition from the Assam side. Later they set up a police post there. When our people went to evict that check-post they refused to comply with it.
"They practise shifting cultivation (jhum) and have started such cultivation on Assam Forest as well. They have even started paving roads on the Assam side. To prevent them from encroaching upon Assam land further, we have set up police posts and border outposts. And that led to the tussle, leading to the killing of six Assam Police personnel. Now neutral forces are manning the disputed border. We have eyeball-to-eyeball police posts and border outposts there."
The Chief Minister said that hearing a PIL on the Assam-Mizoram border violence the Gauhati High Court sought affidavits from the DGPs of both states. "We have submitted the affidavit to the High Court with all necessary documents. The frequent boundary disputes with the neighbouring states gave an impression in the rest of India that Assam is in disputes with all its neighbours. As the big brother, Assam always wants to solve the problems amicably."