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Betel nut trigger for last dispute
Guwahati, Dec 18 (Agencies):
Published on 19 Dec. 2010 12:51 AM IST
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Border battles in the Northeast are often fought for ridiculous reasons. Betel nuts apparently triggered the last major one between Assam and Meghalaya. Deposing before a probe panel, a Meghalaya tribal council member attributed an ethnic clash over a border village to Assam-based goons' refusal to pay for betel nuts taken from vendors.
Four persons died in the clash on May 14 in a village caught in a tug-of-war between Assam and Meghalaya. Assam calls the village Lampi while Meghalaya calls it Langpih. The village, 60 km west of Guwahati, straddles Kamrup district of Assam and West Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya. The PC Phukan (retired judge) commission of inquiry was set up to settle the territorial dispute and fix responsibilities for the May 14 deaths.
"As always, Langpih hosted a weekly market on that day. Hooligans from the other side (Assam) had betel nuts from one of our vendors but refused to pay for them. The freeloaders ran as the vendors united and tried to get their due. They returned with some Assam policemen who began firing on the vendors," said KP Pangiang, a member of the Khasi Hills district council.
Pangiang's statement contradicted the affidavits filed by the Kamrup district police chief and deputy commissioner. The two officers said people from Meghalaya 'instigated' the firing.
Lampi/Langpih is just one of many border battles fought along the borders of neighbouring states in the Northeast. These battles often spill more blood than disputes along international borders (with Bangladesh, China and Myanmar).
The Assam-Nagaland border row, for instance, has claimed more than 450 people since 1963. Four districts of Assam- Sivasagar, Golaghat, Jorhat and Karbi Anglong - share a 500 km long border with Nagaland.
Assam claims more than 55,000 hectares of land including vast forest tracts are under occupation of Naga people. Eviction drives led to bloody clashes in 1979 and 1985 in the Merapani area of Golaghat district.
New Delhi set up two commissions - Sundaram in 1974 and Peri Shastri in 1987 - to settle the boundary crisis. Nagaland trashed the reports of both panels confirming encroachment by its people.
Assam has also had bitter border disputes with Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and West Bengal.

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