Assam-Arunachal Pradesh sign border pact ending decades-old disputes

New Delhi: Ending their over 50-year-old border dispute, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh on Thursday signed an agreement in presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah here which will bring settlement to 123 villages located along areas the two northeastern states share.

Assam and Arunachal Pradesh share an 804.1-km-long border which has been in dispute since the latter was made a union territory in 1972.

Shah said the dispute over 123 villages on both sides of the inter-state border has been resolved once and for all at a time when the country is celebrating its 75th year of Independence.

He said it was a historic event for both Assam and Arunachal Pradesh resolving their long boundary dispute amicably.

Shah exuded optimism that the boundary settlement would usher in all-round development and peace in the Northeast as the agreement ended the border dispute which has been lingering since 1972.

“It is a big moment for the entire northeastern region which has been witnessing all round development ever since the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014,” he said.

The home minister said Modi has been actively promoting the growth of languages, literature and culture of the Northeast and the recent record-breaking performance of Bihu dance was a shining example.

He said that the report of the Local Commission on the border dispute kept circling around for decades, which has now been accepted by both the states. Shah said today’s agreement will prove to be a milestone in the direction of realising Modi’s dream of a developed, peaceful and conflict-free Northeast.

Shah said that since 2018, the central government has signed several accords including with Bru tribals, insurgent groups NLFT and some belonging to Assam’s Karbi Anglong and established peace and ended violence in the Northeast.

He said as compared to 2014, there has been a 67 per cent reduction in incidents of violence, 60 per cent reduction in the number of deaths of security forces and 83 per cent reduction in the number of civilian deaths in the Northeast, which is a big achievement.

The home minister said the Modi government has withdrawn the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from most of places in Assam, 15 police stations in 6 districts in Manipur, all but 3 districts in Arunachal Pradesh, 7 districts in Nagaland, and entire Tripura and Meghalaya.

Assam chief minister Sarma termed the signing of the MoU as historic and said the deal would be a harbinger of peace and prosperity.

He said after 51 years, one of India’s longest running inter-state disputes comes to a decisive end and this breakthrough has been possible due to the prime minister’s blessings, guidance of the union home minister and unstinted support from Arunachal Pradesh chief minister.

“Today’s agreement with Arunachal Pradesh is in line with similar efforts made with Meghalaya in last two years. This will boost the spirit of bonhomie in the Northeast and strengthen our federal structure as it brings a new paradigm to resolve differences between states,” he said.

Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Khandu termed the settlement of boundary dispute as “momentous and historic” and exuded confidence that it would bring about a sea change on the peace and development of both the states.

He said the agreement has been possible due to the initiative and political will of the prime minister and the union home minister and active cooperation of the Assam government led by Sarma.

Out of the 123 villages claimed by Arunachal Pradesh before the Local Commission in 2007, 71 have been amicable resolved so far.

This includes 27 villages resolved through the Namsai Declaration on July 15, 2022 and 34 villages through this MoU.

Out of theee 71 villages, one village will be included in Assam from Arunachal Pradesh, 10 villages will continue in Assam and 60 villages will be included in Arunachal Pradesh from Assam.

Out of the remaining 52 villages, the village boundary of 49 villages is to be finalised by the regional committees in next six months while three villages situation inside the IAF bombing range will require rehabilitation.

Officials said the agreement will end the dispute relating to 123 villages along the border keeping in view the historical perspective, demographic profile, administrative convenience, proximity to the border and the aspirations of the residents.

Under the pact, both the state governments have agreed that it will be final with regards to these 123 disputed villages and neither of the states will make any new claim related to any area or village in future.

After the agreement, a detailed survey will be carried out by the Survey of India in the presence of representatives of both the state governments to determine the boundaries of both the states, officials said.

Sarma said as a goodwill gesture, the Arunachal Pradesh government will hand over a large tract of land under in possession in Assam’s Jorhat to the Assam government.

Arunachal Pradesh, which was made a union territory in 1972, has been maintaining that several forested tracts in the plains traditionally belonged to hill tribal chiefs and communities and these were “unilaterally” transferred to Assam earlier.

After Arunachal Pradesh achieved statehood in 1987, a tripartite committee was appointed, which recommended that certain territories be transferred from Assam to Arunachal Pradesh.

Assam contested this and the matter was in the Supreme Court for a long time.