Conrad, Himanta to meet Amit Shah today over Assam-Meghalaya boundary dispute
Shillong/ Guwahati, Jan 20: Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma and Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma will meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday to submit their recommendations for resolving the boundary dispute between the two Northeastern states in six areas.
Addressing a press conference after chairing a meeting of the Assam cabinet, Sarma said the two states will submit their recommendations to the Centre and urge it to take the matter forward. "The Assam-Meghalaya border issue was discussed in the cabinet. The regional committees of both the states have come to a consensus, and agreement has also been reached at the chief minister level," he said.
"A detailed presentation on the recommendations was made before the cabinet and those were approved. We interacted over the matter with political parties as well as students' and youth groups, and civil society organisations in separate meetings on Tuesday," he said.
Speaking to reporters in Shillong, Sangma said the meeting will be held in New Delhi on Thursday evening. "The Assam chief minister and I will submit the reports to the Union Home Minister in Delhi on Thursday evening (after 6 pm). We will be submitting more or less a common report and then I think the Government of India has to move forward according to the laws," Sangma said after getting the approval of the recommendations from his cabinet.
After discussions, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs will finalise a "conclusion" but more or less the structure has been reached after a long-drawn exercise between the two states, he said. The boundary demarcation will be done after the due procedure in Parliament, he added. "The Survey of India will have to come in and joint inspections may have to be done and the bill has to be there (passed)," Sangma said.
The two states have agreed on the villages in the border areas, and identified natural boundaries such as rivers and forests, he said. There are 36 villages in the six places of difference, covering an area of 36.79 sq km. Three committees each were formed by the two states in August last year after two rounds of talks between Sarma and Sangma were held to resolve the vexed border dispute in a phased manner.
As per the joint final set of recommendations given by the committees, which were placed in Tuesday's meetings chaired by Sarma with different organisations, out of 36.79 sq km disputed area taken up for settlement in the first phase, Assam will be getting full control of 18.51 sq km area and Meghalaya of 18.28 sq km. Out of the 12 points of disputes between Assam and Meghalaya, six areas with relatively less critical differences were taken up in the first phase.
Sangma said, "The important aspect is that we, the state government, have felt very strongly that yes apart from historical facts it is very important to keep the people's sentiments in mind. Therefore, the willingness of the people in specific areas has been one of the main driving forces or the principles on the basis of which we have reached most of the conclusion in most of the areas."
"We have also considered ethnicity as something very important. Both the Assam and the Meghalaya governments have felt strongly that any of the two states may try to claim an area but the people living in that area, if they don't wish to be in a particular state, one cannot force them," he added. Sangma said the boundary dispute has been existing for 50 years, and resolving it was a difficult task but due to the efforts made by the two states, a solution has been arrived at.
"We consulted multiple stakeholders, have had multiple meetings and multiple visits. As I said, this is truly a very important and historic moment," he asserted. Sangma said that once a common agreement is reached in the presence of the Union Home Minister, "that will be the appropriate time for us to declare and share the details of this (report)". On the demand for an all-party meeting over the issue, Sangma said the different regional committees will be holding meetings to share the report.
"We have taken inputs from all political parties. The regional committees have representation from almost all parties," he said. Meghalaya was carved out of Assam as a separate state in 1972 and it had challenged the Assam Reorganisation Act, 1971, leading to disputes in 12 areas along the 884.9-km-long border.