Boundary dispute: Conrad, Himanta to meet Shah today

Based on recommendations of border panels, solution to six areas of differences expected

SHILLONG/ GUWAHATI, Jan 19: Chief Minister Conrad Sangma and his Assam counterpart Himanta Biswa Sarma will fly to New Delhi on Thursday to meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah to partially settle the 50-year-old interstate boundary dispute.
This follows the approval of the recommendations of the regional committees to resolve six “less complicated” areas of differences by the cabinets of both the states on Wednesday.
“The Cabinet has approved the proposal or recommendation given by the committees and it will now be forwarded along with the recommendations of Assam government to the MHA for further action,” Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma said after the Cabinet meeting.
“The Assam Chief Minister and I will submit this report to the Union Home Minister. Since both the states have more or less agreed on the respective reports, we are going to submit a common report,” he said.
On the way forward from here, he said, “I think the government of India will have to move according to the laws for a bill to be put up and while that happens, the two states will discuss the administrative nitty-gritty.”
“We can agree on the villages in each location but the actual demarcation of the boundary has to be done by Parliament. This has to be done at the Parliament level and the Survey of India has to come in. Joint inspections may have to be done and a Bill has to be there,” Sangma said.
“We have managed to at least move a step forward by looking at some natural boundaries like rivers and forests to demarcate the boundary,” he said.
Refusing to divulge the content of the recommendations made by the regional committees, Sangma said: “The important aspect is we looked at the historical facts and ethnicity besides keeping the sentiments of the people in mind.”
Any state government can stake claim to some areas but cannot force people to live in a particular state, the CM said. This was the driving principle in the effort to resolve the  dispute when the committee members visited each of the 36 villages within the six areas of differences, he added.
“What is more important to note today is that the two state governments explored all the angles to work toward a solution to an issue that has been there for 50 years,” he said.
“Assam gave some idea yesterday and it (recommended solution) is more or less in that line. We will be able to give more details once I return from Delhi tomorrow late night,” he said.
Asked whether Meghalaya stands to gain from this whole exercise, the CM said, “It is not about who gains more. I think it is important to not stick to our positions. I have been clear in my discussions that when we stick to a position, then we can never find a way forward.”
Stressing that one has to look at the larger interest of the state and the people while resolving issues, he said, “We felt that we needed to see what the stakeholders want. Their will and ethnicity became the driving forces in trying to find the best amicable solution.”
Earlier on the day, the Assam Cabinet approved the recommendations of the three regional committees.
Briefing media persons after the Cabinet meeting in Haflong (Dima Hasao district), the third such meeting held outside Dispur since the new government took charge in May last year, Sarma said the Cabinet approved the recommendations of the boundary panels on the six disputed areas.
“The Assam-Meghalaya border row resolution was a key issue discussed. The Cabinet heard the statements of chairpersons of the three regional committees, and based on the resolutions of yesterday’s meeting with political parties, students’ groups, civil society organisations and representatives from the Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council, approved the recommendations of the panels,” Sarma said.
“Tomorrow, Meghalaya Chief Minister and I will apprise Amit Shah about the recommendations of the respective regional committees and would request the Centre to take a decision (for final settlement) under the purview of the Constitution of India,” he added.

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