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Assam-Meghalaya Border Row

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    25th Jan, 2022

Context

A roadmap for amicable settlement of the border issues has been prepared with representatives from both states of Assam and Meghalaya.

Background

  • In a bid to resolve the long-standing inter-state boundary disputes, chief ministers of the two states had met in December last year and decided to resolve the issues over six of the 12 areas.
  • Six of the 12 areas of difference have been identified for resolution in the first phase.
  • The areas of differences taken up for final settlement include Hahim, Gizang, Tarabari, Boklapara, Khanapara-Pillingkata and Ratacherra.
    • Assam has border tension with neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.
    • Efforts to resolve the dispute with the three other states are also underway.

Analysis

The border row

  • The 884-km Assam-Meghalaya boundary witnesses flare-ups frequently. 
  • But the worst-ever violence along the Assam-Mizoram border was seen in July 2020 that left six Assam Police personnel dead and nearly 100 civilians and security personnel of the two neighbouring states injured.
  • The trouble between the states is due to conflicting interpretations of their territorial position.
  • Meghalaya was a part of Assam before attaining statehood on January 21, 1972. They share an 884.9km border and the dispute started after the creation of Meghalaya.
    • There are at present 12 points of dispute along the Meghalaya–Assam border covering an area of 2,765.14 sq. km. Now, six of the 12 areas have been taken for final settlement.
  • While Mizoram says the boundary line is the one laid down in the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act of 1875, Assam backs the 1933 demarcation.

                                                  Major inter-state disputes in India

Assam – Nagaland

  • Boundary: 434 kilometer
  • Area of dispute: Assam districts of Sivasagar, Jorhat, and Golaghat.

Gujarat – Rajasthan

  • Area of dispute: Mangadh Hill, located on the border of the two states. Gujarat claims half of the hill, while Rajasthan claims the entire hill is theirs.

Karnataka- Kerala

  • Area of dispute: district of Kasaragod

Orissa – West Bengal

  • Area of dispute: 82 villages under Jaleswar and Bhogarai blocks in Balasore district

Arunachal Pradesh and Assam: 

  • Area of dispute: Arunachal Pradesh claims territory in Assam based on history.

Others

  • Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand: Himachal Pradesh is contesting Uttarakhand over six places of Dehradun district, adjoining its Shimla district.
  • Bihar and UP: The inter-state boundary between Bihar and Uttar Pradesh continued to fluctuate due to the frequent change in the course of rivers.
  • Haryana and UP: Likewise, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh's fluctuating boundary was sought to be solved in the 1970s. But issues are still not resolved.
  • Haryana and Punjab: Punjab and Haryana are locked over the transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab, and part of the Fazilka sub-district of Punjab to Haryana. 
  • Orissa and Andhra Pradesh: Between Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, the boundary dispute relates to 63 villages falling presently in Orissa. But neither government has asked for Central intervention.
  • Orissa and Jharkhand: Similarly, Orissa and Jharkhand have a boundary dispute relating to seven villages of the Mayurbhang and Keonjhar districts. Orissa has claimed territories in the former princely states of Seraikela and Kharsuan, now in Jharkhand.
  • Orissa and Chattisgarh: Orissa is locked with Chhattisgarh over three villages of Naupada district. Orissa and West Bengal are also stalemated over five villages of Balasore and Mayurbhanj districts of Orissa.

How does the Constitution deal with inter-state disputes?

  • At the time of independence in 1947, India consisted of 571 disjointed princely states and provinces directly governed by the British. 
  • The States Reorganization Commission (SRC) constituted in 1953 after nearly two years of study, merged them into 14 states and six union territories (UTs).
  • Currently, they have grown into 28 states and eight UTs, making a total of 36 entities.
  • The draftsmen of India’s constitution had erred grievously in ignoring the problem of interstate disputes, especially interstate boundaries.
  • The constitution makes no provision for a swift and binding decision of such disputes.
    • Article 262 is on the adjudication of disputes relating to waters of inter-state rivers or river valleys. There is no comparable provision on disputes on land.

How does SC deal with disputes arising between States?

  • Article 131
    • Article 131 of the Constitution of India vests the Supreme Court with original jurisdiction over any dispute arising between the states or between the center and state.
    • SC has original jurisdiction in any dispute:
      1. between the Government of India and one or more States
      2. between the Government of India and any State or States on one side and one or more other States on the other; or
      3. Between two or more States
  • (if the dispute involves any question (whether of law or fact) on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends)

Conclusion

The inter-state border disputes in the country have persisted for a long time. In such a scenario, it is important to solve the matter by spreading awareness about the benefits of settled and peaceful borders in terms of better infrastructure, connectivity. At the same time, efforts should be redoubled to find a political solution, mediated by the Union government, which is binding on all the states.

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