Assam is committed to resolve the border disputes with its four neighbouring states to realise Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of a “united North East”, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Saturday.
Assam has disputes with Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland and ‘’we have already taken significant steps with the first two states in resolving the issues’’, Sarma said at a press conference here.
‘’The signing of the Namsai Declaration with Arunachal Pradesh on Friday is a historical step and we have already brought down the number of disputed villages from 123 to 86’’, he said. Chief ministers of the two North-eastern neighbours on Friday met at Namsai in Arunachal Pradesh and signed the agreement to resolve border issues. The two states were fighting for over 15 years in the Supreme Court on the border dispute and when ‘’we got down to resolve the issues, it was found that 28 (contested) villages are not within Assam since the beginning but were 15 to 20 kilometres inside the constitutional boundary of Arunachal Pradesh’’.
“Besides, our officials could not find the location or existence of six villages and though efforts were made to trace even their Assamese names, they could not be found and as such Assam has no claims over these villages,” he said.
Arunachal Pradesh has also claimed that three villages do not belong to them and as such the number of disputed villages has been restricted to 86, the Assam chief minister said.
‘’The regional committees will now visit the fields and we expect issues related to 20 to 25 more villages will be resolved. We will try to resolve the disputes between the two states by September 15’’, he said.
Both states constituted 12 regional committees each to cover the border districts of Arunachal and Assam for joint verification of disputed areas and make recommendations to their respective governments.
Sarma said the border problems should be solved during ‘Azaadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, the celebration of 75 years of India’s independence, so that the vision of the prime minister and Union Home Minister Amit Shah of a “United North East can be achieved’’.
The chief minister said Assam and Meghalaya also signed, in presence of Shah, an agreement in March this year to end their five-decade-old border dispute in six of the 12 contested locations.
‘’We expect to resolve disputes in four more sites. However, ( sites such as) Lampi, Block I and II in Karbi Anglong are the tough ones and may take some time’’, he said.
Referring to Nagaland, the chief minister said that the issue will be resolved in the Supreme Court and till then ‘’both states are committed to jointly develop some areas along the border. Both states are also committed not to do anything that will harm the age-old friendship and unity’’.
Regarding Mizoram, he said Assam Border Affairs minister Atul Bora will soon visit the neighbouring state and ‘’we hope to begin talks soon’’.
The division of Assam and the creation of the hill states of Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh in the early 1970s left a residue of boundary problems. The forest areas in the foothills were claimed by both Assam and the newly created states.
Assam shares an 884.9 km border with Meghalaya, 804.1 km with Arunachal Pradesh, 512.1 km with Nagaland and 164.6 km with Mizoram.
ULFA (I) issue is Assam’s internal matter: CM
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Saturday said the ULFA(I) issue is an “internal matter” of the state and not of the entire North East, which can be resolved through dialogue.
Addressing a press conference, Sarma said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah have been keen to solve problems of the North East so that the region can remain united in the path of progress and prosperity. Asked whether the issue of the banned ULFA(I) is expected to be resolved soon, the chief minister said this is not related to the entire NE region but is Assam’s “internal matter”.
“Border disputes, flood, issues related to electrification, communication, internet connectivity and others are related to the North East. We are going to deal with these and make the region strong and prosperous in line with the vision of the prime minister and the home minister,” he said.
ULFA(I) chief Paresh Barua views Assam from a different perspective while “we do it in a certain way and will resolve the issue through talks”, Sarma said.
He, however, did not elaborate whether talks with the banned outfit would be held soon.
The proscribed ULFA (Independent) had announced a unilateral ceasefire on May 15 last year for three months after Sarma took charge as the chief minister of the state and called the outfit to come forward for talks.
The outfit has been extending the ceasefire every three months since then but there has been no announcement regarding negotiations with the banned organisation.
Sarma had last year said peace talks with the banned outfit could progress if it was prepared to discuss grievances and issues other than sovereignty.