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2 Apr 2017

Assam, Meghalaya resume border talks - Chief secretaries to iron out differences

Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and his Meghalaya counterpart Mukul Sangma at the meeting in Guwahati on Saturday. Picture by UB Photos
Andrew W. Lyngdoh, TT, Guwahati, April 1: Assam and Meghalaya today decided to have their chief secretaries interface on the contentious "areas of difference". The decision was taken at a bilateral meet held at the Brahmaputra State Guesthouse here.
Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and his Meghalaya counterpart Mukul Sangma held the discussions in the presence of a team of ministers and officials from both states.
This is the first time since Sonowal took over as the Assam chief minister in May last year, that the BJP leader met his Congress counterpart to discuss the decades-long boundary dispute between the two states.
The last time the chief ministers of the two states met was on June 5, 2010. Then Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi had held a discussion with Sangma here following the death of four Khasi villagers in a firing by Assam police at Langpih on May 14, 2010.
Following the discussions, which lasted for less than an hour, Sonowal told the media from both states that the chief secretaries of Assam and Meghalaya had been asked to continue the dialogue on the 12 areas of difference.
The 12 "areas of difference" include Upper Tarabari, Gizang reserve forest, Hahim, Langpih, Borduar, Boklapara, Nongwah-Matamur, Khanapara-Pilangkata, Deshdemoreah, Khanduli-Psiar area, Ratacherra and Blocks I and II.
The total area of difference is 2,765.14 sq km of which Blocks I and II cover 1,583.42 sq km.
"We have discussed a lot of issues and it was fruitful. The chief secretaries will discuss the boundary dispute. We have also decided to work together for mutual growth," Sonowal said.
He said the meeting had decided to conduct joint operations along the inter-state boundary to weed out militants and other extremist elements to ensure peace and tranquillity.
"We have also decided to work together to restore the environment and whoever is doing illegal activities - like hill-cutting - should stop and action will be taken jointly on this issue," Sonowal said.
Sangma said: "As a culmination of today's discussion, the issue related to disputes will be further discussed at the level of chief secretaries." Stating that Meghalaya and Assam should prosper together, he said: "We had a fruitful dialogue and as a follow-up to discussions held earlier, more discussions will be held so that both the states can resolve the long-pending issues mutually which will be acceptable to both the states."
On the stand taken by Meghalaya asking the Centre to constitute a "boundary commission" to resolve the inter-state boundary imbroglio, Sangma said: "They (Assam) have made their stand, but we will discuss mutually."
In March 2011, the Meghalaya Assembly had passed a resolution to urge the Centre to constitute a "boundary commission" to re-examine and redefine the inter-state boundary between the two states.
Later that year, the Assam Assembly, however, adopted another resolution negating the Meghalaya resolution and the idea of having such a commission.
The first chief ministerial-level talks on the boundary issue took place on September 1, 1971, after Meghalaya was declared an autonomous state in 1970. Meghalaya became a full-fledged state carved out of Assam on January 21, 1972.
The chief secretary-level talks had been held several times since June 3, 1992, the last one on May 4, 2012.

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