Resolve dispute

Though there are boundary disputes among states in other parts of the country, they have not taken the form of forced occupation of territory, attacks on people on the other side of the border or battles between uniformed forces of disputant states as has often happened in the Northeast.  Some years ago, the police forces of Assam and Nagaland had fought a pitched battle, in which 45 people were killed. The latest instance of flare-up on their border has also been marked by violence. Fifteen persons have been killed in clashes between people or in police firing in the last few days in Golaghat district of Assam where some areas are claimed by Nagaland. There are different versions of the incident. Naga rebels of the NSCN (Isak-Muivah) faction are alleged to have shot dead 13 people. But Nagaland has a different version which puts the blame on the tribals from the Assam side. But lives have been lost, over 10,000 people taken refuge in relief camps, and there is tension and continuing threat of violence.

Assam, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Meghalaya have all territorial disputes.  It is likely that there were lapses on the part of both state governments and the Centre in dealing with the latest situation. The Union home ministry is said to have had intelligence inputs about the developing tension in the area but allegedly did not pass it on to the Assam government. The Assam government was slow in handling the situation. It did not put up border posts or deploy state police on the border if it felt the Central forces were not enough. The Nagaland government has not opposed the rebels’ border violations probably because it felt they were actually enforcing its own claims. The demand for a Greater Nagaland has been the demand of both the insurgents and of the government.

An agreement has been reached between the chief ministers of Assam and Nagaland now but unless the state governments sincerely want the borders to be clearly demarcated, the problem will occur again.  It is a fact that inter-state boundaries were not clearly delineated at the time of creation of these states. This needs to be done in a spirit of co-operation and in national interest.  Persisting tribal loyalties are another complicating factor. The states should first wait for the report of a Supreme Court-appointed boundary commission which is studying the dispute now.

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