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  • Writer's pictureTeshi Sharma

Northeast India: an ambience for border disputes

Teshi, an Indian native, gives us the history of Northeast India and the region's ongoing border disputes.

Home to more than 166 different tribes, Northeast India is distinct from other sections of the subcontinent due to its beautiful terrain, diverse communities, and physical and ecological variety. Mist blankets the valleys in the winter, but during summer rains, it swirls around the wanderer in the hills, creating a beautiful and romantic ambience. Northeast India has always been a crossroads for numerous ethnicities, faiths, and civilizations.

In all honesty, the diversity and beauty are supplemented by insurgencies, border disputes, and contention. While the governments focus on building tourism, thousands of displaced people face uncertainty.

After British Independence, the region was known as Assam and was comprised of the princely states of Tripura and Manipur. Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal, Pradesh, and Mizoram were carved out of the larger territory of Assam through a series of legislative Acts. The North East Reorganisation Act of 1971 established the new States of Manipur and Tripura, formed the new State of Meghalaya, and the new Union territories of Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh by reorganizing the existing state of Assam. On January 21st, these states celebrated their 50th Statehood Day. Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram were later granted statehood on 20th February 1987. Later, Sikkim was added to the belt in 2002.

The formation of the seven sisters was not merely a job of integration and welcoming diversity. The terrain of the borders shared by these states was bound to generate disputes. The Assam-Mizoram, Assam Meghalaya, Assam-Arunachal Pradesh, and Assam-Nagaland border disputes remain some of the highest contributors to the insurgency in the region. When Meghalaya was created out of Assam through the Assam Reorganisation Act 1969, Meghalaya challenged the delimitation leading to a dispute in 12 locations. Points of contention are the Lagpin district and the Mikir Hills, which remain unresolved despite attempts at peace. Recent hopes for peace were given by the peace agreement signed between the chief ministers of the two states to resolve the dispute in 6 out of 12 locations.

"In all honesty, the diversity and beauty are supplemented by insurgencies, border disputes, and contention."

The Assam-Mizoram dispute arises from the notifications of 1875 and 1933 in the colonial era. Mizoram believes state boundaries should be created based on the 1875 notification that differentiated the Lushai hills from the plains of Cachar. Assam wants to follow the 1933 notification that demarcated the boundaries between Lushai hills and Manipur. Commissions enacted in the 70s and 80s created friction between Assam and Nagaland where the latter believed that the two commissions (Sundaram commission in 1971 and Shastri commission in 1985) favored the position of Assam and thus rejected the recommendations. The conflict between Arunachal Pradesh and Assam stems from the 1951 report prepared by a subcommittee headed by Assam's first chief minister, Gopinath Bordoloi.

Today, the states battle with the disputable Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the delayed Citizenship Amendment act, and the ever-increasing refugee crisis. It becomes imperative that leaders take rapid steps to resolve border disputes. Without fixing internal issues, warding off international obtrusion would be very difficult. State governments must maneuver to rebuild the stability within this region and focus on social development and cultural programs. Peace and stability don't seem implausible with the right direction for negotiations and efficient implementation of agreements.


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