Assam-Nagaland Border Conflict

Towns such as Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Uriamghat and Karbi Anglong are located on the Assam-Nagaland Border. In August 2014, some Naga miscreants reportedly burnt around 200 houses in seven border villages of Uriamghat area leading to forced displacement of around 10 thousand people of the area to refugee camps. The immediate reason behind this violence was firing at the protesting Nagas by some miscreants. The residents of Golaghat district were protesting recent attacks from people from across the Nagaland border. However, the major issue behind is the dispute over ownership and encroachment of land. The two states have been disputing their shared border ever since one was carved out of the other. Thus, such skirmishes have been quite regular phenomena in that region.

Origins and Reason of Conflict

In 1866, the British Government had created the Naga Hills district as a part of then Assam province. This district remained as a part of Assam till 1957. However, when Nagaland was given full statehood in 1963, the Nagaland State Act 1962 had defined its borders as per a 1925 notification, which was not acceptable to the Nagas. Nagaland was demanding some portions that it believed historically belonged to it. This is the root cause of the problems.

The Nagaland argument supporting its claim also includes that a 16-point agreement of 1960, which led to the creation of Nagaland, also included “restoration” of all Naga territories that had been transferred out of the Naga Hills after the British annexed Assam in 1826. However, Assam government refutes this claim and stands to maintain the boundary “constitutionally” as decided on December 1, 1963 (Nagaland formation day). Nagaland does not accept the constitutional boundary fixed.

The result was that border clashes started happening in the residents of the border areas. First such clash had happened in 1965, followed by 1968, 1979 and 1985 clashes. The border skirmishes also resulted in Merapani incident, which resulted in the death of 100 people in the firing in 1984. Before the 2014 conflict, there was a conflict in June 2007 in Sibsagar which led to killing of two people.

Extent of dispute area

Assam and Nagaland share a total of 512.1 kms of border, which falls in Jorhat, Sivsagar, Golaghat, Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao districts of Assam. For the administrative purpose, the entire stretch of border has been divided into six sectors viz. A, B, C, D, E and F. Out of them most conflicting region is the Golaghat area belonging to sectors A and B.

Assam claims that Nagaland has encroached upon over 66,000 hectares in Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat and Karbi Anglong districts. The encroached area also includes over 80 per cent of Assam reserved forests. Nagaland, on the other hand, insists that more tracts under Assam “occupation” belong to Nagaland. NSCN(IM) wants that the entire Assam tract south of the Guwahati-Dibrugarh railway track in these four districts should be in “Greater Nagalim”.

Factors that aggravate the problem

With the long pending boundary dispute between the two states, even a small localized issue turns into a major flare up warranting action from central government. Not only this, the militant outfits also take the advantage of the situation and get the issues politicized. With the recent issue flaring up, Assam people protested, imposed economic blockade on Nagaland, heckled their chief minister and his convoy was attacked.

Steps taken so far

To maintain law and order, the central government forces such as CRPF have been employed in the region since 1971. To sort out the issue, the central government had set up the KVK Sundaram Commission in 1971. This commission had although prepared a report but that report was not acceptable to Nagas. On that, Assam moved to Supreme Court. One more commission viz. Shastri Panel (1985) also failed.

The two states, however, signed four interim agreements in 1972 to maintain status quo.

Right now, the border dispute between Assam and Nagaland is being mediated by the boundary commission set up under a 2005 direction of the SC.

Recent steps

After the recent clashes, curfew is clamped in the area. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stepped in and sought report on Assam-Nagaland situation. Union minister of Home Affairs has submitted the report. The central government has also decided to send additional forces to Assam.

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