Residents of Meghalaya’s Iongkhuli village in Ri Bhoi district on Monday protested against the Assam police who tried to remove electricity poles from the area, the Meghalaya Police said. There were no reported casualties or injuries and the Meghalaya Police said the situation was under control.

Territorial disputes between the two states began after Assam was restructured to form other states – including Meghalaya – post Independence and have been running since then. Meghalaya was demarcated in 1972. Since then, the North East has been rife with communal tension, border disputes, and separatist violence. Assam is the only state with which Meghalaya shares an internal border.

The Meghalaya Police on Monday said that the protests began after the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited on Monday set up the poles in the village “on the same stretch where Assam Electricity Board had erected electric poles in the month of January 2021”.

“However, around 11 am the Circle Magistrate Batistha Circle from Assam accompanied by senior police officials and a sizable police force came to the spot and dismantled the erected poles,” Assistant Inspector of Police, Meghalaya, GK Iangrai said in the statement. “The action of the magistrate and the Assam police was met with stiff resistance from the people of the village, who protested against the unwarranted action of the Assam officials.”

Congress’ member of the District Council Charles Marngar told The North East Today that the site where the conflict occurred lacked electricity connections due to which the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited had set up four electric poles. However, he added that “high ranking officers from Assam” stopped the work. “There were police personnel, around four to five buses.” Marngar added.

The Meghalaya police said the situation was brought under control after deliberations with the officials from Assam and the protestors.

Marngar said that he tried to stop the “forceful removal of electric posts” by the Assam Police. “Our women leaders from Meghalaya Peoples’ Social Organisation, Ri Bhoi also tried their best, but unfortunately we could not do anything as we were outnumbered by Assam police personnel,” he told The Shillong Times. “They [Assam police] even manhandled me.”

Marngar claimed that he had seen land documents that proved the area was in Meghalaya.

He also questioned why the Meghalaya government had not deputed sufficient police forced in the areas prone to conflict. “I had informed the Ri Bhoi SP [superintendent of police] in the morning, but unfortunately, he arrived at the spot only around 4 pm,” Marngar said, according to The Shillong Times.

The incident followed three days after Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his Meghalaya counterpart Congrad Sangma met to hold discussions on the border dispute, reported India Today.

During the talks, Meghalaya claimed that 12 disputed places belonged to the state. But the Assam government also cited documents to establish its claim on those places.

However, the Assam and the Meghalaya governments had then decided to go forward with a pragmatic approach to resolve the border-related problems and to adopt the resolutions in a phased manner, reported India Today.

“We see that it is really important to resolve the ongoing dispute and we will start to resolve it,” Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said after the meeting last week. “It may not be possible to resolve the entire dispute at a time, but definitely, we can start from some point and one by one we will keep on resolving this dispute.”

Sangma said this was a long pending matter that would take some more time. He also called for consultations to achieve an amicable and accepted solution by both the states, according to India Today.

The next round of discussion between the two chief ministers is scheduled on August 6.

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