The Nagaland Assembly on Thursday adopted a three-point resolution to resolve border tensions with Assam, PTI reported. The development came nearly a week after the two states agreed to withdraw their armed police forces from disputed areas in the Dessoi Valley reserve forest.
Last week, both sides had agreed to de-escalate tension arising due to a standoff in the Ao Senden and Vikuto villages in Nagaland, and Jankhona Nala/ Nagajankha and Compartment No 12 in Assam.
The border dispute between the two sides dates back to December 1, 1963, when Nagaland was officially declared a state, after a 16-point agreement between Jawaharlal Nehru, who was then the prime minister of India, and the leaders of the Naga People’s Convention was signed in 1960.
The government of India pledged to return all Naga territories that had been annexed by Britain and made part of Assam. This transfer did not take place, since Nagaland refused to cooperate in a survey of the border suggested by a commission, which had been created in 1972 to look into the matter. In all, about 66,000 hectares of land is in dispute between the states.
Assam and Nagaland share a 434-km-long border. The Assam-Nagaland interstate border area has been divided, for administrative convenience, into six sectors – A, B, C, D, E and F – spread over Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat and Karbi Anglong districts. All of these are presently in Assam.
The Nagas say they should be granted sectors A, B, C and D, a total area of 12,883 square kilometers. The Nagas claim this region historically belongs to their tribes, and was promised to them in the 16-point agreement.
Meanwhile, the Assam government maintains that these six sectors have been under the state’s administrative care for more than a century, and no contradictory direction has been given to them by the central government since.
The land dispute has resulted in violent clashes for decades. Two major incidents in 1979 and 1985 resulted in over 100 fatalities.
The latest incident of violence between the two states was reported in May, when Bharatiya Janata Party leader Rupjyoti Kurmi, who was then a Congress MLA, his security officers and others came under gunfire in the Dessoi Valley area from the Nagaland side. Some journalists were also injured in the incident.
On Thursday, the Nagaland Assembly held a lengthy discussion on the border conflict, the Hindustan Times reported.
Members of the Assembly agreed to form a 10-member committee led by Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio to study all aspects of the matter. The committee will prepare a report and submit it to the House within three months.
They also decided to urge Home Minister Amit Shah to ensure that status quo is maintained in disputed areas till the matter is settled.
Members of the Assembly agreed that the two state governments must settle the border row outside the court in an amicable way. They added that local communities from both the states must be involved in the talks.
In 2010, the Supreme Court had tried to resolve the border dispute through mediation, the Hindustan Times reported. However, the states rejected a report submitted by court-appointed mediators.
During the Assembly discussion on Thursday, Naga People’s Front leader TR Zeliang said the Supreme Court hadn’t been able to resolve the Assam-Nagaland boundary dispute because of its complexity, PTI reported.
Meanwhile, the Nagaland chief minister claimed that nearly every agreement with Assam has been unfavourble to the Nagas. “Assam doing what they want to do and the border issue is very very serious,” Rio said, according.
However, he praised his Assam counterpart Himanta Biswa Sarma for upholding the decisions made during a meeting with Shah in Meghalaya last month.