The Jessami-Meluri example
IFP Editorial: Manipur has two more boundary disputes with Nagaland in Tungjoy and Mao of Senapati district.
Updated on 9 Dec 2021, 4:56 am
The recent agreement between the villages of Jessami in Manipur’ Ukhrul district and Meluri in Nagaland’s Phek district with regard to the long standing boundary dispute between the two villages is a landmark and a testament to the victory of active engagement through negotiations in settling disputes. As we said before, most of the boundary disputes between states are basically between the bordering villages with claims and counter claims mostly based not on historical records or documents but more on oral tradition. Talks at the state to state level had failed to resolve the disputes between the two states, sometimes leading to violence and kidnapping besides face-off between state forces. As it turned out, the village authorities of the two feuding villages of Jessami and Meluri had been able to reach an agreement recently with the signing of an agreement and erection of permanent boundary pillars and installation of GPS points. The boundary dispute between the two villages had been there since the days of British Raj which continued till date. Years of intervention by village elders and CSOs besides state officials had failed to resolve the dispute. But, through a series of meetings and negotiations between the village authorities, an agreement was arrived at on November 23. Perhaps, such a process should be followed in other boundary disputes raging between NE states.
The biggest state in NE Assam has border disputes with almost every state except Manipur and Tripura. Perhaps, it is because the two were princely states with properly demarcated boundaries before the Indian Independence while the other states were carved out of Assam. The state of Assam has long standing border disputes with the states of Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. The last one was known as North Eastern Frontier Agency (NEFA). Arunachal Pradesh became a full-fledged State on 20th February, 1987. Manipur’s boundary disputes have not been that violent as in the case of Assam’s disputes with other NE states. More recently, we have seen violence and blockades on the Assam-Mizoram border while Arunachal Pradesh has also its share of disputes with the state of Assam. These long standing disputes led to the North East Students' Organisation (NESO) seeking the intervention of Union Home Minister Amit Shah in inter-state boundary disputes involving Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. In a letter written to the Home Minister, NESO said the boundary dispute between the states has been lingering on for too long with no permanent solution between the states. NESO also alleged that the state governments have failed to honour the agreements made amongst themselves and appealed to all the states to honour the status quo and withdraw from their recent encroachments till normalcy or a mutual amicable agreement is arrived at between the disputed parties.
In the last North Eastern Council meet, the powerful Union Home Minister Amit Shah had urged NE states to settle their border disputes through bilateral dialogue. He had even given a timeline that all disputes should be resolved by August 15, 2022 so that the Prime Minister could proudly boast about it in his Independence Day speech. It was a sort of ultimatum. However, instead of trying to settle disputes the Assam-Mizoram dispute flared up leading to the deaths of some policemen. Manipur has two more boundary disputes with Nagaland in Tungjoy and Mao of Senapati district. There have been several instances of confrontations between Manipur and Nagaland. But in the end, it ultimately boils down to disputes between the Southern Angamis of Nagaland and Maos of Manipur. The situation is the same in Tungjoy with villagers demanding the stationing of state forces to stop marauding Nagaland forces.