Updated 2 Apr 2022, 2:05 pm
We remember the North East Students' Organisation (NESO) seeking the attention of Union Home Minister Amit Shah to intervene in inter-State boundary disputes involving Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam in July 2021. NESO said the boundary dispute between the states has been lingering on for too long with no permanent solution between the states. With the state leaders engaged in making temporary agreements, conflicts and tensions have cropped up from time to time which has caused immense hardship and suffering to the people residing in and around the disputed border areas, added the letter.
In fact, the powerful Union Home Minister Amit Shah had in a NEC meeting 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. Most of the governors and chief ministers besides the chief secretaries of the NE states were present in the said 69th NEC Plenary meeting.
Assam, the biggest state in Northeast 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. 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 February 20, 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 Assam. The boundary disputes might be between the states as projected, but most of the disputes at the ground level are between the bordering villages with claims mostly based not on historical records or documents but more on oral tradition.
A case in point is the Dzuko Valley which sits high amongst the clouds at 2,452 meters above sea level, straddling the border with Nagaland state. A state border between Manipur and Nagaland runs through the heart of Dzuko Valley, marked at some points by a narrow stream. There has 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. Now, the Southern Angami Peoples Organisation (SAPO) has imposed an indefinite blockade of the National Highway with a demand that Manipur government should withdraw its armed personnel and remove structures from Kezoltsa area.
While asserting that 3/4 of the entire area of Dzuko valley belongs to Manipur and the remaining to Nagaland, Chief Minister N Biren Singh said the IRB outpost set up at Kezoltsa area was for precautionary measures to avoid unwanted incidents for the local tourist of Manipur. The state government is also planning to deploy State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), including fire brigade, as a part of preventive measures to control wild fire at Dzuko valley.
In the just concluded assembly session, CM Biren said that the dispute is not between the state governments of Nagaland and Manipur but with an organisation and if the dispute cannot be solved at state to state level he will pursue the matter with the Centre. We understand that BJP has an understanding with the Nagaland-based Naga Peoples Front (NPF) and it is even a part of the new coalition government. If the arrangement with NPF is only for restricting bandhs and blockades inside Manipur, it defeats the purpose of having an alliance. It should extend beyond Manipur and NPF should take care of blockades from the neighbouring state also.
First published:27 Mar 2022, 4:23 pm
Northeast Indiabandhnational highwayborder disputesSAPO