Inter-State Border Disputes
- Inter State Border Disputes in North East India
- Inter-State Border Dispute (Outside North-East India)
Inter State Border Disputes in North East India
Border Disputes in North-East are associated with Assam as four states were carved out of it over the years:
i. Assam-Meghalaya Border Dispute:
- During the British rule, the undivided Assam included present-day Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Mizoram. Meghalaya was carved out in 1972, its boundaries demarcated as per the Assam reorganization (Meghalaya) Act of 1969, but has held different interpretation of the border since.
- Assam and Meghalaya have a longstanding dispute in 12 stretches of their 884 km shared border.
- In March 2022, the two states signed a pact resolving dispute in 6/12 areas.
- In May 2023, the two CMs start talks to resolve border disputes in six remaining sectors.
ii. Assam – Arunachal Border Dispute finally resolved (April 2023)
- The border dispute between the two states dates back to 1873, when the then British government introduced the inner line regulations, vaguely separating the plains from the frontier hills (now Arunachal Pradesh) that were later designated as the North-East Frontier Tracts in 1915.
- Based on the Bordoloi committee report (1951), around 3,648 sq km of the plain area of Balipara and Sadiya foothills was transferred from Arunachal Pradesh to Assam’s then Darrang and Lakhimpur.
- In 1972 Arunachal Pradesh was separated from Assam as an UT. Since then it maintained that transfer of 3,648 sq km was done in an arbitrary and defective manner without consultation of its people them. Assam on the other hand, has been holding that the demarcation as per 1951 notification is constitutional and legal.
- Further, at the time of separation, the inter-state borders were not properly demarcated triggering claims and counter claims by people living on both sides of the inter-state border.
- Various attempts at resolving the issue:
- Between 1971 and 1974, there were multiple efforts to demarcate the boundary that didn’t work out due to constant conflicts amongst the people living in the disputed areas.
- A tripartite committee (representatives of the two states and Union), set up in 1979 also met with limited success as AP reneged and refused to accept the recommendations. Later Assam also junked the proposal and moved to Supreme Court against Arunachal Pradesh for encroachment of its territory by Arunachal.
- Supreme court formed a Local Boundary Commission in 2007 headed by a retired judge of SC. It submitted its report in 2014 and recommended transfer of some of the lands which were taken away from NEFT based on Bordoloi declaration in 1951. It also urged two states to arrive at consensus through discussion.
- The Namsai Declaration:
- Resolution efforts gained momentum in 2022 as both the parties had BJP rule.
- Two states decided that all border issues between them will be confined to those raised before the Local Boundary Commission in 2007.
- Both states formed 12 regional committees for joint verification of 123 disputed areas/ villages and to make recommendations keeping in view the historical perspective, administrative convenience, contiguity and people’s will.
- The first joint meeting of the inter-state regional committees was held in Aug 2022, at Namsai, after the field inspection of the inter-state border areas. Based on the discussion at the meeting, the first treaty between the two states – the Namsai declaration was signed. As per the declaration, the two states agreed to restrict the number of contested villages to 86 instead of 123.
- Other 37 disputed villages was agreed upon.
- Later in April 2023, the two CMs in front of the Home Minister Amit Shah signed an MoU to end 50 years of dispute.
- They agreed that they will not be making any new further claims.
- Boundary demarcation of most of the remaining regions/villages will be finalized in next six months.
- The final boundary demarcation will be done by survey of India based on the MoU.
- Why the dispute could be resolved this time?
- Close and Constant monitoring by the Central government.
- PM Modi had made it very clear that the disputes would have to be resolved very fast and in a spirit of give and take. Home Minister Amit Shah also kept a close watch on the progress.
- Close and Constant monitoring by the Central government.
- Ushering in peace and development in the entire region.
iii. Assam Nagaland
- The dispute predates formation of Nagaland as a state in 1963. The demand was raised in both the Nine Point Agreement (1947) and 16 point agreement (1960) that Naga representatives signed. Nagaland demands 12,488 sq kms of Assamese territory. Large forested areas of Assam had been encroached by the Naga rebels and violent clashes along Assam Nagaland border occurred regularly. Major armed conflicts were also reported in some situations.
- CMs of Assam and Nagaland held talks in April 2023 on settlement of border disputes and agreed in-principle on oil exploration in the disputed areas of economic benefit.
iv. Assam Mizoram Border Dispute
- It is rooted in Mizoram’s rejection of the colonial notification on which the inter-state boundary is based.
- While the Assam Mizoram boundary is based on a 1933 notification, according to North-eastern area (recognition) Act, 1971, Government of Mizoram has maintained that the border should be based on an 1875 notification.
- In Sep 2022, Assam and Mizoram agreed to form regional communities to resolve the inter-state disputes.
Root of the Border Dispute in the North-east
- Colonial Legacy:
- The British never governed the region as an integral part but treated it as a frontier region that they left ungoverned to a large extent. They viewed NE as a buffer between India and China.
- They were even not keen on demarcating borders between India and Burma as Burma was also part of British India.
- The territorial Evolution of North-East India after independence:
- In 1950, Assam was the only full fledged states. Manipur and Tripura were UT at the time. But, since then there are 7 full fledged states mostly created from the erstwhile Assam territory.
- Difficult terrain also made demarcation difficult.
- Underlying ethnic tensions and presence of militance in the region.
- Militants use ethnic tensions and border disputes to instigate violence.
- Learn from the success of Assam-Arunachal Border dispute -> Effective involvement of the Centre would be crucial for inter-state land boundary disputes to be resolved.
- Robust and Replicable model for inter-state cooperation. Northeast Council which is supposed to facilitate inter-state collaboration need to be reinvigorated.
- Positive Politicization: It will happen only when the electorates are sensitized regarding the tangible socio-economic benefits of peaceful cordial border dispute resolution and there is more emphasis on national identity than on regional identity.
- Adjudication by Supreme Court can be the last resort which states could approach to get their grievances resolved.
- Inclusion of locals would bridge the gap between government and people, thus enhancing communication.
- Resolving various border disputes at village level can address genuine grievances and put people’s interest first for effective solutions.
- The best solution would come from increased cooperation between states and if they are both ready to compromise in the spirit of cooperative federalism.
Inter-State Border Dispute (Outside North-East India)
- Haryana Himachal border dispute is over Parwanoo region, which lies next to the Panchkula district of Haryana. Haryana has laid claim to a large part of the land and has accused the hill state of encroaching upon the area.
- Ladakh-Himachal: Both claim Sarchu, a major halt point for those travelling through Leh-Manali highway. The region is located in between Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal and Leh district of Ladakh.
- Maharashtra Karnataka: Dispute is over Belgaun district. The district has sizeable population of both Marathi and Kannada speaking people and the two states continue to fight over the region.
- Odisha-Andhra Pradesh: The disputed area is Kotia which is claimed by both the states. Kerala-Tamil Nadu also have some disputes in some of the districts.
Different mechanisms to resolve current Inter-State Disputes:
i. Bilateral Talks in coordination with Centre: For e.g., the success in Assam-Arunachal dispute was made possible for this reason.
ii. Inter-State Council formed under Article 263 of the Constitution is expected to inquire and advise on disputes between states and make recommendations for better policy coordination.
iii. Zonal Councils set up under the States Reorganization Act can be crucial in increasing coordination.
iv. Adjudication Route: As per Article 131 of the Constitution of India, the Supreme Court has original and exclusive jurisdiction to decide disputes between states.
i. Increase the role of Inter-State Councils by regularly meeting and discussing various issues: For e.g., in the last 16 years, only two meetings of ISCs have been held.
ii. Other suggestions already discussed with Northeast Border Dispute.