Assam MoU

Guwahati, April 20: Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, two neighbouring states in Northeast India, are set to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to resolve their 70-year-old border dispute.

The border dispute dates back to the colonial era and has been a source of tension between the two states for many years.

What is the decades-old border dispute?

Assam shares an 804 km long boundary with Arunachal Pradesh, which was earlier known as the Northeast Frontier Agency (NEFA). After Independence, Assam assumed jurisdiction over the NEFA, which later became Arunachal Pradesh. The two states have been engaged in a dispute over their border for decades.

The root cause of the dispute is said to be a 1951 report by a committee headed by then Assam chief minister Gopinath Bordoloi, which recommended the transfer of about 3,648 sq km of the “plain” area of Balipara and Sadiya foothills from the NEFA to Lakhimpur and Darrang districts of Assam.

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Arunachal Pradesh has long claimed that the transfer was done without the consultation of its people and that the state still holds customary rights over these lands. Assam, on the other hand, maintains that the 1951 notification was constitutional and legal. The dispute has led to allegations of residents of one state encroaching on land in the other, which has resulted in disputes and violence.

Efforts to demarcate the border between the two states have been ongoing since Arunachal Pradesh became a Union Territory in 1972.

Border Demarcation

In 1979, a special tripartite committee was formed to demarcate the boundary based on Survey of India maps. By 1983-84, about 489 km out of the 800 km was demarcated.

However, the further demarcation was stalled as Arunachal Pradesh did not accept the recommendations and claimed a major part of the 3,648 sq km, which was transferred as per the 1951 notification.

In 1989, Assam filed a case in the Supreme Court alleging “encroachment” of its lands by Arunachal Pradesh.

In 2006, the apex court constituted a local boundary commission headed by a retired SC judge. In 2014, the commission submitted its report, which suggested that some of the lands be given back to Arunachal Pradesh, and several other recommendations was made. However, both states failed to come to a consensus.

The issue intensified in the 1990s, with frequent clashes between the people of the two states in the disputed area.

However, in 2021, following the insistence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, both states agreed to work towards resolving their border dispute out of court. Last year, they signed the Namsai Declaration, in which they agreed to reduce the number of disputed villages from 123 to 86.

To address the issue, 12 regional committees were formed, each headed by a cabinet minister, to visit the disputed areas and take feedback from residents.

The proposals made by these committees were approved by the Assam Cabinet on Wednesday, paving the way for the signing of the MoU on Thursday. This is a significant step towards resolving a long-standing border dispute and promoting peace and harmony in the Northeast region of India.