Organisations in Meghalaya on Monday demanded immediate review of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Meghalaya and Assam, which ended the dispute in six of the 12 areas of difference under the first phase of border talks.
The demand was made in a sit-in-protest organised by the Federation of Khasi Jaintia and Garo People (FKJGP) and the Association for Democracy and Empowerment (ADE) in Shillong amid tight security.
Protesters also carried placards which read – “MoU must be reviewed”, “Conrad, you have no rights to sell our land”, “We appreciate the initiative of MDA Govt to solve the problem of border dispute but we condemn its MoU”, “Don’t sell our land without our consent” among other slogans.
This also came a day after Meghalaya and Assam started the second phase of border talks for resolving the remaining six areas of difference and decided to form the regional committees in the three districts within the next 15 days.
In their joint memorandum submitted to Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma, the two organisations said that the MoU signed on March 29 has failed to consider the historical facts that the villages of Mallang Hahuapara (formerly Okgipu Chiring), Mallang Joypur and Mallang Salbari belong to the Nongbak Aking and the Hima Nonglang, and other villages like Maikuli, Iongkuli, Pillangkatta falls under Raid Marwet.
“Further, as per our understanding, these villages were never an area of contention in the boundary disputes between Meghalaya and Assam in the past. However, as per the MoU signed between the Government of Meghalaya and Government of Assam on March 29, these villages are being parted and offered to the government of Assam from the lands of Meghalaya,” it stated.
Speaking at the protest venue, ADE president Dalseng Bira Ch Momin slammed the MDA government for adopting a “dictatorship attitude” by forcefully giving away tribal lands to Assam.
“Meghalaya is a Sixth Schedule state and land belongs to the people and the government has no authority over the (tribal) land. But we can see the MDA government has done an act of dictatorship by giving away part of our land to Assam state.
“Therefore, we have decided, along with Khasi and Jaintia brothers and sisters, to stand together on this issue and we will fight back until our lands are restored,” Momin stated.
Echoing similar views, FKJGP president Dundee C Khongsit observed that there exist an imbalance in the MoU signed by Meghalaya and Assam.
“We have seen the government of Assam has gained much from this MoU compared to the government of Meghalaya,” he alleged.
Asking the government to resolve the boundary dispute by taking the satisfaction of the border residents into consideration, he said the government of Meghalaya should not take any hasty decision.
“However, we were compelled to gather here today because the government of Meghalaya was so much in a hurry to please the government of Assam under the leadership of Himanta Biswa Sarma but deny own people (of their rights),” he said while urging the government not to take the people of the border areas for granted as once their lands go to Assam, there will be big suppression on the tribal land owners by the Assam government.
He further assured full support to the Joint Action Committee on Border of Meghalaya (JACBOM) which is preparing to file a petition against the MoU signed between the two states.
Earlier, JACBOM chairman Erwin K Sutnga informed that they are ready with documentation to file a petition before the Court against the MoU.
“I am happy to inform you that we have the map of the Hima Jaintia 1835, the 1872 map, which clearly mentioned about the Khasi states, the notification 1876, which we challenged because they took away land from Hima Khasi to Kamrup and claimed they fall in Assam. We also speak about section 7 of the Independence Act, we say this has come to an end as the standstill agreement and instrument of accession clearly stated you can make laws on everything except land, water, excise, the forest you cannot touch,” Sutnga said.
Supporting the demand to review the MoU, the chairman of the JACBOM said that the state government cannot touch the land under the Sixth Schedule areas without the consent of the tribal people and without the constitutional process.
“Once they touch it without a constitution process, the MDA government and Assam government they are in trouble,” he stated.