Maikhuli meet reiterates demand for recall of border agreement

GUWAHATI, April 18: Civil society groups, parties and organisations from Meghalaya assembled in Maikhuli in Ri-Bhoi district on Monday reiterated their demand to rescind the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed with Assam on six areas of differences between the two states and instead consider solutions to the disputed areas on the basis on Constitutional boundaries of the Syiemship, and Khasi and Jaintia Hills district councils.
Speaking in the meeting organised on the premises of the Maikhuli playground, Erwin K Syiem Sutnga, former legal adviser to KHADC, underlined the need to create a roadmap and organise the course of action to push for withdrawal of the MoU signed on the six areas of dispute by the chief ministers of the two states on March 29, 2022.
“If required, we will move the Supreme Court against the MoU, the signing of which is not constitutional but a political move. The state governments must request the central government to ask the President to notify an interstate council under Article 263 of the Constitution to inquire into the issues such as settlement of the interstate boundary problems, definition of the Khasi states, protection of the people living along the border,” Sutnga said.
Earlier, on April 12, the representatives of a joint border committee comprising border residents, landowners, village elders and headmen along with the traditional heads of Mylliem, Jirang and Nongspung Syiemship besides prominent NGOs had, in this regard, submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma, pointing out that the agreement was inked without the knowledge, consent and concurrence of the landowners and local villagers.
The state of Meghalaya was granted by Parliament through the North Eastern Area Reorganisation Act, 1971 from January 21, 1971. Section 5 of the Reorganisation Act specified that Meghalaya will comprise territories under United Khasi and Jaintia Hills district as described in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India.
The territories constitutionally constituting the United Khasi and Jaintia Hills districts from west to east became the interstate boundaries between Meghalaya and Assam which comprise tribal areas as defined by various central government notifications issued between 1876 and 1951.
“However, the three regional committees appointed to find a permanent solution to boundary issue did not follow in letter and spirit the notifications relating to the constitutional territories that constituted the various Khasi Syiemship but relied on the five parameters prescribed by the Assam and Meghalaya governments,” the memorandum submitted to the CM read.
“Even though, all the villages under various Syiemship satisfied all the five criteria but the failure to follow the central government notifications concerning the territories and ground demarcation resulted in a number of villages, some of which are not even in the disputed list, to be included in Assam. This lapse will permanently destroy the customs, usage and practice of the various tribal people existing in various border villages and Raid of different Khasi Syiemship since time immemorial till today, as many villages now will become under the direct general administration of Assam and outside the jurisdiction of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India,” it read.
It may be mentioned that owing to Easter Monday, representatives from other border villages could not assemble at the Maikhuli playground for a joint protest against the border pact on six areas.
However, the meeting later resolved that a joint protest would be staged at the same venue on April 23 next.
It may be mentioned that on April 1, residents of nine border villages along the Pillangkata-Khanapara area of the Assam-Meghalaya border had threatened to move the Supreme Court against the MoU, demanding review of the agreement and retain the Maikhuli Fish Pond under Meghalaya.
The villagers have vehemently opposed Clause 15 of the border MoU which states that “Muamari Beel, which is adjacent to Maikhuli playground will remain with Assam…”
Maikhuli villagers allege that none of the state governments took their consent before drafting the MoU against the claims of the regional committees formed by the two states.
Maikhuli village headman Kleden Sangma, who presided over the meeting on Monday, claimed that the regional committee members of the two states visited Maikhuli but did not take the consent of the people before giving away the 290,000 square feet fish pond, adjacent to the playground, to Assam.a

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