Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio on Monday said that his state and Assam were ready for an out-of-court settlement of the border dispute between them, reported PTI.
Rio said he had met Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in Guwahati on Sunday to talk about the dispute and had a “fruitful discussion”.
“Nagaland and Assam had jointly taken up the matter with Union Home Minister Amit Shah on December 23, 2020,” he told reporters on Monday. “Both the state governments are in favour of an out-of-court settlement, and maybe our teams will meet Shah in the first part of February to discuss and formulate how to go about it.”
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.
In July, the Assam and Nagaland governments had agreed to withdraw their armed police forces from the disputed regions in the Dessoi Valley reserve forest area. Later in November, the Nagaland Assembly had adopted a resolution to resolve the dispute with Assam in an amicable way.
In 2010, the Supreme Court had tried to resolve the border dispute through mediation. However, the states rejected a report submitted by court-appointed mediators.
During the Assembly discussion on the resolution in November, Naga People’s Front leader TR Zeliang said the Supreme Court had not been able to resolve the Assam-Nagaland boundary dispute because of its complexity.