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Assam-Meghalaya border row: Assam to hand over 18.28 sq km area to Meghalaya

GUWAHATI/SHILLONG:

In a landmark development on January 18, Assam has agreed to hand over 18.28 sq km out of the 36.79 sq km of disputed land to Meghalaya, as a settlement of the ongoing boundary row between the two states.

The decision was taken in a meeting held at the State Guest House No 1 at Koinadhara, Guwahati, where leaders of all the political parties of Assam arrived at the consensus on the proposal of Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. Of the 36.79 sq km disputed land, Assam will keep 18.51 sq km, sources said.

Last week, both Sarma and his Meghalaya counterpart Conrad K Sangma had decided to resolve the dispute in six areas – Taradubi, Gizang, Hakim, Boklapara, Khanapara- Pilingkata and Ratacherra – by January 21.

“Our efforts to resolve Assam-Meghalaya border row have started bearing fruits as 6 of the 12 areas of difference have been identified for resolution in the first phase. During an interaction, briefed representatives of all political parties on the progress made so far (sic),” tweeted Sarma, after the meeting.

Responding to the news, Deputy chief minister of Meghalaya, Prestone Tynsong said that now it is upto the two chief ministers of Assam and Meghalaya to decide whether to call for a special session or an all-party meeting to discuss the final agreement on an amicable solution to end the dispute in six areas of difference shared between the two states.

“The ball is now in his (Sarma’s) court. Now, it’s up to both the chief ministers whether they will declare the decision on January 21 or prior to it… Hopefully, we will have a few days before both the CMs fly to Delhi to meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah and give out a final verdict.”

Adding that the official announcement will be made by Sangma, Tynsong said that both the chief ministers will meet Shah before January 21.

Speaking to the press post the meeting, opposition leaders in Assam, however, refuted reaching a consensus on the matter, demanding a discussion on the issue on the floor of the Assam Assembly during the upcoming budget session.

“The proposal is not acceptable to us. We do not agree with it. Earlier, the Meghalaya government did not cooperate with us in the demarcation of boundaries between the two states. They have also rejected the report of Survey of India,” said Debabrata Saikia, the leader of opposition.

Alleging that the Meghalaya police has been pressurising residents of the border villages to opt to stay with the state, the Nazira legislator said that such issues didn’t find a place in the regional committees’ report.

Echoing with Saikia, Communist Party of India – Marxist (CPI-M) leader, Manoranjan Talukdar said that though both the states have reached a consensus on the issue, the same needs to be discussed in the Assam Assembly before reaching a formal agreement.

United People’s Party Liberal (UUPL) MLA from Barama, Bhupen Baro said, “We agree to the proposal of the chief minister. But the leaders of other political parties have sought a discussion in the State Assembly on the same.”

Maintaining that the Meghalaya government has no plan to call for an all-party meeting or a special session to discuss the issue, Tynsong said, “If you remember, the CM had called all political parties, district councils, NGOs and other stakeholders to discuss the issue. The meeting has already been called and even Assam did the same. So, consultation on the issue has already been completed.”

Post the all-party meet, Sarma also held a meeting with the leaders of All Assam Students Union (AASU), All Bodo Students Union (ABSU), All Rabha Students Union (ARSU) and Garo Students Union and Assam State Committee to discuss the issue.

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