157 killed, 65,729 displaced in NE border rows: Rights group

The New Delhi-based Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) on Tuesday claimed that the inter-state border disputes in the northeastern region had left 157 persons killed, 361 injured, and 65,729 people displaced in the past 42 years.

In its report, titled “Border Disputes in the Northeast: The Raging War Within”, it said that these figures occurred in the clashes over border disputes between Assam on one hand and the states — Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland — carved out of it from 1979 to July 26 (this year).

RRAG Director Suhas Chakma, in a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Chief Ministers of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland, said that the victims are all citizens of India and the increasing human toll warrants permanent peace-building measures.

Out of the deaths, the maximum (136) took place due to the Assam-Nagaland dispute, followed by 10 in the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh dispute, seven in the Assam-Mizoram dispute, and four in the Assam-Meghalaya dispute.

Of the injured, over half (184) were from the Assam-Nagaland dispute, followed by 143 in the Assam-Mizoram dispute, 18 in the Assam-Meghalaya dispute, and 16 in the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh dispute.

Chakma said: “The states usually approach the Supreme Court to resolve the disputes but the demarcation of boundaries is an executive task. Therefore, the Supreme Court usually recommends formation of the boundary commissions.

“However, if any of the states does not accept the recommendations of the boundary commissions, including those appointed by the Supreme Court, little progress can be made.”

He said that in the past, the recommendations of the boundary commissions have been consistently rejected.

On the Assam-Meghalaya border dispute, Meghalaya had rejected the recommendations of Justice Y.V. Chandrachud Committee which had awarded Langpih to Assam while Assam had accepted them.

“But, Assam itself had rejected the recommendations of the three-member boundary commission appointed by the Supreme Court on the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border dispute which, in its 2014 report, recommended the transfer of around 70-80 per cent of the disputed land to Arunachal Pradesh.”

The Centre had also constituted two boundary commissions — the Sundaram Commission (1971) and the Shastri Commission (1985) — to settle the Assam-Nagaland border disputes but both states rejected their recommendations.

“The issue has never been the absence of technology and expertise to draw the boundaries of the states but the absence of political will. Satellite mapping to demarcate boundaries and settle such disputes as suggested by the Ministry of Home Affairs cannot manufacture the political will over claims on territories based on borders drawn by the colonial British as early as 1835,” Chakma said.

Requesting the Chief Ministers to give up one-upmanship, the RRAG recommended that the Union Home Ministry and the state governments to maintain status quo till final resolution of boundary disputes, identify the line of de facto control of the areas, and deploy police from both the states who will operate under the coordination of the CRPF with respect to any dispute, including in maintenance of law and order.

The rights group also suggested conducting biometric documentation of the residents living within the disputed areas on both sides and issuing identity cards and declaring their names through joint gazette notifications to prohibit settlement in new areas, unless agreed by both parties.

The worst-ever violence along the Assam-Mizoram border on July 26 left six Assam Police personnel dead and around 100 civilians and security personnel of the two neighbouring states injured.