The Never ending Assam-Nagaland Border Conflict
Assam-Nagaland border conflict is indeed a very big problem. Various factors are associated in a conflict situation. But so far as the conflict between these two states is concerned it is a dispute arising from land.
An analysis of this condition seeks our attention as we look at the awful situation that took place during 19th and 20th August, 2014 where more than twenty protestors were injured and two killed in a police action at Rangajan of Golaghat district, Assam against an economic blockade on “NH 39” leading into neighbouring Nagaland by the protestors from several local organizations like All Assam Students Union, All Bodo Students Union, All Assam Gorkha Students Union, Border Co-Ordination Committee and All Adivasi Students Association etc.
On August 12 of the same year at least nine persons from the Tea and Tai Ahom Tribes were killed inside Assam border by armed Nagas from Nagaland. The miscreants torched over 200 houses across seven border villages after which over 10000 people fled to Uriamghat. The Naga and the Assamese people are trying to get the disputed area as their own. These places are in the Dhansiri Sub – Division, Golaghat district and inside of Assam and owned by the Forest Department of Assam. The Golaghat district is still burning due to the border problem in some parts and there is no permanent settlement in this case. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland needs to be condemned for the dreadful 2014 incident.
The conflict in the border area led to a dispute in the interior part of Assam, where thousands of local people came forward to protest. The protestors committed some unlawful activities such as road blockade due to which both the state suffered for nearly ten days. A look at the situation informs that the Chief Minister of Assam blamed the Central Government responsible for policing. The two States have held a series of meetings at various levels, including that of the chief ministers. In March 1981, the union minister asked both chief ministers to resolve the issue through discussion while strictly adhering to basic constitutional aspects. But it was both the Central as well as State Government’s responsibility to handle the situation peacefully, for it was the Prime Minister’s responsibility to come over the disputed area and face a meeting with both the State’s Ministers. The Central government washed its hands off the whole situation by displaying ‘neutral’ military forces.
The disputed area between these two states has four divisions. NSCN-IM is trying to extend their attention to three sectors. The Central government led by different political parties did not do anything in the last three decades except merely accepting that these four areas are prone to dispute. Compounding the problem is the fact that these are under the Assam State Forest Department. The only possible solution may be to bring these areas under the Revenue Department and distribute ‘pattas’ to the local people. Currently people residing there do not have land rights. So, when Naga militants attack their homes, they cannot reclaim their land by legal means.
Nagaland was formed in 1925 by combining some parts of the Naga Hills and some places of Assam and the border was demarcated accordingly. In 1963 Nagaland got its statehood and they demanded some parts of the hill state as their own which they thought originally belongs to them. Additionally according to the 16-point agreement between the Naga leaders and the Indian union, known as the “Naga people’s Convention and the Government of India Agreement”, signed on July 26, 1960, section 12 says that all reserved forest and other Naga area that were transferred out of Nagaland will be returned to the state with a clearly defined boundary. The Assam government and the Central government’s stand is to maintain the boundary “constitutionally” as decided on December 1,1963, when the hill state was created. But they did not do it. As a result a case was filed in the Supreme Court in 1980 by Nagaland. But for the last three decades no judicial decision has been arrived on the much-disputed border issue. We got an absence of law and order situation in the wake of the recent atrocities made by the people of Assam and the unaccepted action by the Assam government in Golaghat district. The Nagas claim that 4,975 square miles of Assam territory was not based on variable facts. In fact, the British colonial rulers after demarcating Assam as a separate province in 1873, had merged territory under the former Ahom kingdom into Naga Hill’s District, according to colonial records. But the Nagas for decades have been pursuing a policy of defying constitutional arbitration to extend their Northern boundary. In 1991 and 2006, the Nagaland Government established new administrative sub-divisions in the disputed territory. The Assam government duly lodged protests but did not carry matters further to the disadvantages of the people of Sivsagar, Jorhat and Golaghat districts. The present attacks are perceived by the people of Assam as a continuation of that old dispute. Sundaram Commission in the leadership of K. V. K. Sundaram recommended a borderline between the two States in early 1970s. But the Nagaland government did not agree to the Commission’s suggestions. This is not the first time that Assam has lost its people to Naga miscreants. In two big attacks in January 1979 and in June 1985, the Naga militants allegedly with the support from the Nagaland police killed nearly 100 people in the Golaghat district including Assam police personnel.
When we seek information about the Assam-Nagaland boundary, it has been termed as “disputed territory” in the sense that the Nagas claim that present boundary had been drawn by incorporating vast areas belonging to them into Assam. However, if we turn the pages of history and the medieval Assamese chronicles, there is no such evidence in support of such claims. We do not know it clearly whether the disputed area belongs to Assam or Nagaland but some peoples are living there.
The Indian government has so far failed to give a permanent settlement to the border problem of these two States. The border issue has found its place in the election agendas of the political parties time and again. But it still defies a solution. The government of these two states should put interest and come up with a solution to end up this conflict peacefully and the Central Government should also come up and play a vital role. Otherwise the gulf between the Assamese and the Naga people is here to stay.