Assam, Meghalaya look to to solve interstate border row in six areas by year-end

  • | Tuesday | 16th November, 2021

Guwahati, Nov 16 (PTI) Assam and Meghalaya on Tuesday announced that necessary measures would be taken to settle interstate border disputes in at least six areas by the end of this year. Addressing a joint press conference here, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his Meghalaya counterpart Conrad Sangma said border committees set up earlier to hammer out solutions will submit their reports by November 30. "The committees will present reports by November 30 before their respective state governments, which will then talk to all stakeholders. After that, a clear picture will emerge and a final statement will be issued," Sangma said. Three committees each were formed by the Assam and Meghalaya governments in August after two rounds of talks between Sarma and Sangma over border disputes and their likely solutions. Of the 12 points of dispute between the two states, six areas with relatively less critical differences have been taken up in the first phase, while the remaining locations will be attended to later. "Going by the spirit and pace, we are looking to issue a final statement on these six areas by December 30,” Sarma said, adding that the entire exercise is being monitored by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Union Home Minister Amit Shah. The two states will be receiving guidance from the PM and the home minister before the final statement is issued, he underlined. The Assam CM further said if conclusions are arrived at with regard to some of the disputed locations that are being taken up, the statement will be issued only on those "areas of agreement", while discussions on the remaining sites will continue. The six disputed areas that will be attended to in the first phase fall under Kamrup, Kamrup Metropolitan and Hailakandi districts on the Assam side, he added. Asked if the Meghalaya government will try to resolve the disputes before next year"s state elections, Sangma refused to set a timeline, but expressed confidence that solutions will emerge in most areas. "It will be a huge achievement if we can do it before the elections, but I cannot comment about it at this moment. It is a challenging and sensitive issue. The people have bestowed a great responsibility on us. We will try and find solutions at the earliest," he maintained. Both the chief ministers, however, said that much depends on the committees" reports, which will state if the boundary needs to be redrawn or simple clarifications will do. "Redrawing of boundaries will require Parliament’s intervention. We are trying to get clarity... understand which area belongs to which side," Sangma said. Backing his Meghalaya counterpart"s statement, the Assam CM said, "To alter the boundary, Parliament"s approval is necessary. Clarification (of borders), however, can be done by the states." A decision on any actual change in the interstate boundary will depend on the "contour of the final statement", he added. Sarma and Sangma visited Langpih or Lower Lumpi earlier in the day, with the Meghalaya leader describing the event as a "historic one" as it is for the first time that the chief ministers of the two states toured a disputed area together and interacted with people there. He also said that the "will of the people" will be among the important aspects that will be taken into consideration by the committees before making final recommendations. "This was a long-pending visit. We went there and tried to give a message of positivity, friendship, goodwill and commitment to people on behalf of both the governments. We want to find an amicable and long-lasting solution to the disputes," Sangma said. Sarma, on his part, maintained that Langpih is not among the six areas being pursued in the first phase, but it has been chosen for the joint visit as the states wanted to underscore that critical disputes in such areas can also be resolved with the right spirit. Addressing the people of Lower Lumpi area, Sarma said that both the governments have been making concerted efforts over the last six months to reach a mutually acceptable solution. He said the two states have tentatively decided to implement central government schemes at Lumpi, with collective approaches by the deputy commissioners of Kamrup and West Khasi Hills districts, in consultation with public representatives of both sides. "People living in the disputed border areas have immensely suffered in the last 50 years. Earlier, no government made such committed efforts for settling border disputes," Sarma added. Meghalaya, carved out of Assam as a separate state in 1972, has challenged the Assam Reorganisation Act, 1971, leading to disputes in 12 areas along the shared 884.9-km border. PTI SSG TR RMS RMS

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