Border Dispute Resolution
The recent agreement signed between Assam and Meghalaya in the presence of Home Minister Amit Shah to end the decades old border dispute in six of the 12 contested locations was a welcome step. The two states also set the stage to resolve the dispute in the remaining areas. Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his Meghalaya counterpart Conrad Sangma had taken a decision that their predecessors had not dared to. Procrastination doesn’t help solve border disputes; it rather causes misunderstanding and eventually results in violent confrontations as witnessed in the Northeast region in the recent past. So, the political will shown by the governments of Assam and Meghalaya to resolve the five decades old issue is praise worthy. As expected, the move has triggered protests from various quarters in both the states. It is bound to happen when give-and-take approach is adopted to settle land disputes, especially in tribal societies where villagers own the land and not the government. However, people in disputed areas, irrespective of the states they belong to, won’t gain from unrest arising out of delay in settling border issues. There are also chances of things getting out of hand and may even result in loss of precious lives, as seen in the past. In view of the harm an unresolved border dispute can cause, it is best to amicably solve through compromise. Assam and Meghalaya governments have set a good example by agreeing to end inter-state border issues. Now, the governments of the two states should convince the people, especially those in the disputed areas, to pave the way for sealing the final deal and give chance to peace, harmony and progress.
Unfortunately, the north-eastern states, which often stand shoulder to shoulder fighting for justice when people from the region are discriminated against in other parts of the country, as well as share common problems like poor infrastructure and insurgency movements, is riddled with border disputes. Assam alone has such issues with its neighbouring states of Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. Manipur and Nagaland too have border issues. But are these problems helping the region? A big NO. It’s a pain in the ‘chicken neck’. It will distract from the real issues confronting the region and disrupt common potential prospects like tourism, Act East Policy and trade. The region should first address the elephant in the room to move forward. It is imperative for the states to solve the pending issues amicably. In disputes involving tribal communities, efforts should be made to settle disputes among the parties involved. If that doesn’t work, states can adopt give-and-take approach, as shown by Assam and Meghalaya, to arrive at a solution. The region can’t afford to allow border disputes to be a thorn against development and progress.