Govt reviews border rows of Assam with other N-E states; panel told to expedite work

A DAY after violent clashes at the Assam-Mizoram border, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Tuesday held a review of all the border disputes that Assam has with other North-East states.

Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla has summoned police chiefs and chief secretaries of Assam and Mizoram for a meeting on Wednesday. He is also learnt to have instructed a committee of four joint secretaries — set up last year to resolve inter-state border disputes in the North-East — to expedite work.

“The home secretary is closely monitoring the situation on the Assam-Mizoram border and is in touch with the two states. Work on resolving the border issues is on,” said an official.

Sources said Assam has border disputes with Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram. “A review of all these border disputes was made by the concerned division and a report on the status of the disputes is being prepared for further action,” said another official.

Sources said there have been reports of tension at Meghalaya border recently, while Arunachal and Nagaland borders have seen violent clashes in the past.

The committee of four joint secretaries, set up by the MHA in mid-2020, was supposed to visit the inter-state borders in the North-East and hold talks with all the stakeholders to resolve border disputes. But work progressed at a slow pace due to the pandemic, said sources.

“There have been a couple of meetings, but committee members have not been able to make field visits due to the pandemic. The committee will continue its work at a faster pace now,” said a senior official.

The joint secretaries were drawn from various divisions of the MHA, including the Kashmir division, Left Wing Extremism division, and the police division.

The Assam-Mizoram border dispute has led to at least two clashes in the recent past – in October 2020 and in February this year. Following the October clashes, Shah had spoken to then Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga; Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla had also held a virtual meeting with them. Then too, the two states had offered similar assurances as on Monday. The MHA had assured that the border dispute would be resolved in due course.

The border dispute between the two states is a longstanding problem. According to an agreement between Assam and Mizoram governments, status quo must be maintained in the no man’s land in the border area. But, clashes have erupted from time to time over alleged violation of this agreement, sources said.

“The issue has been festering since the British Raj, who demarcated inner lines according to administrative needs. Unfortunately, the issue could not be settled when Mizoram was carved out. The result is that both states continue to have a differing perception of the border,” said an official.

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