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Explained | All the active border disputes between Indian states and their present status

Territorial claims in border areas between many Indian states have led to bitter disputes, which at times have sparked violent clashes like the recent incident between Assam and Mizoram. Moneycontrol looks at the major disputes.

July 28, 2021 / 02:04 PM IST
Representative image

Representative image

On July 26, the Assam-Mizoram border was hit by massive civilian-police clashes which devolved into skirmishes between the police forces of both states.

Mizoram Police shot dead six policemen from Assam. They clashed over the border dispute between northern Mizoram's Kolasib district and Southern Assam's Cachar district.

Interestingly, on July 27, the home ministry informed Parliament about all inter-state border disputes in the country. These involve Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and all across the northeast, mostly along Assam's massive 2,743 km border.

"Occasional protests and incidents of violence are reported from some of the disputed border areas," the home ministry said. But the Centre does not involve itself in these actively troubled areas, acting only 'as a facilitator for amicable settlement of the dispute in the spirit of mutual understanding'.

Moneycontrol looks at the major disputes recognized by the Centre as ongoing legal and administration disputes between states, their genesis and the human cost involved.

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Assam-Mizoram

The 193-square mile of land under dispute has its beginning when the British first demarcated the border between Southern Assam's Barak valley from the Lushai Hills, then a district of Assam. A further demarcation in 1933 sought to define the border between the Mizo holdings in the Lushai hills (today's Kolasib district, Mizoram) from the Barak valley plains (today's Cachar district, Assam) and the princely state of Manipur (now part of Jiribam and Pherzawl districts in Manipur).

This is not accepted by the Mizos as they claim their clan chiefs were not consulted on the demarcation. Their anger also stems from allegations that the move is an effort by the Assamese to deprive them of flat lands needed for cultivation and urban development, which is at a premium in these parts.

The spectre of infiltration from neighbouring Bangladesh further fueled the crisis. The Barak Valley itself is overwhelmingly Bengali-speaking as it has historically been settled by Bengali Hindu refugees from East Pakistan (Bangladesh) after 1971. The area has had a long and violent struggle against the Assamese government, in its fight for language and civil autonomy. In the past two decades, more Muslim infiltrators have pored in through the border.

Read: Fear of land grab by ‘illegal migrants’ could be factor behind frequent Assam-Mizoram border clashes

Assam-Meghalaya

Just South of Assam's largest city Guwahati, runs the state’s border with Meghalaya's Ri Bhoi District. The clashes here are between civil contractors, electricity companies and telephone line operators. The border snaking across the hills beginning after the flat expanse of Guwahati ends is contended between both states.

Recently, Assam stopped telephone lines being installed across what they claim is their border line. Khanpara, a small urban area is the centre of such tensions since it is growing fast and the need for urban infrastructure has led to increasing tensions. The area falls within Meghalaya but the state capital Shillong is on the other side of the Khasi Hills, as a result of which it remains dependant on Assam.

Recently, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma held discussions with his Meghalaya counterpart Conrad Sangma to systematically end the dispute which began when Meghalaya was established in 1972 from Assam's erstwhile Khasi Hills district.

Assam-Nagaland

Merapani, a small village neighboring the plains of Eastern Assam's Golaghat district and the Doyang forest reserve in Nagaland's Wokha District is known as the most violent internal border dispute in the subcontinent. Till 1990, it had mortars, rockets and machine guns stationed along the line.

The Nagaland government has refused to accept the 1963 border with Assam from the time the state was formed. It also alleges that the Assam government has consistently broken the terms of the 1972 treaty on border areas which led to the flare ups in 1979 and 1985 when more than a hundred people died along with scores of policemen.

Nagaland says the border deprives them of their rightful claim to the plains while Assam continues to push in more settlers that take up resources and the tea gardens in the surrounding areas. Assam meanwhile says the issue has been stoked up by Nagaland to take back control of prime lands and create pretexts for widespread violence targeted against thousands of Assamese villages. The large majority of civilians killed till now are Assamese.

Assam-Arunachal Pradesh

Assam shares a 804-km long border with Arunachal Pradesh and despite no official disputes, there have been multiple issues of encroachments by residents across state lines.

The problem has led to localized tensions flaring up occasionally. A suit has been pending in Supreme Court since 1989 on the issue. Recently, Kimin in Arunachal Pradesh was shown as in Assam by the Border Roads Organization by mistake after a central ministerial level event.

Recently Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu said his state has agreed in principle to clear all border disputes with Assam.

Ladakh-Himachal Pradesh

There exists a small border dispute at the Sarchu, a region between Himachal Pradesh's Lahaul and Spiti district and Ladakh's Leh district. The long pending dispute at Sarchu falls along the Leh-Manali highway.

The Himachal Pradesh government has in the past asked Jammu and Kashmir state not to put up a police post at Sarchu. Situated at a height of 14,070 feet, the place is a favourite of trekkers and camping enthusiasts.

With the administrative changes in the wider region and the authority now having passed to the Union Territory of Ladakh, there is renewed interest in remapping the border after an extensive survey.

Maharashtra-Karnataka

One of the most high profile and legally challenging border disputes in the country till date, the contentious issue of whether Belgaum district should belong to Karnataka and Maharashtra has continued since India's independence.

Currently in Karnataka, Belguam district has historically had a large number of both Kannada and Marathi speakers. Part of Bombay Presidency in British India, it came under Bombay state, large parts of which later became Maharashtra after independence. It was brought under Karnataka in 1956 when states were reorganized based on linguistic data that in this case went back till 1881.

But regional tensions over who constitute the historical inhabitants of the area have continued till date. There have been multiple commissions on the issue and multiple court cases. Most recently, in 2006, Karnataka chose to hold its assembly for the first time outside Bangalore in Belgaum's district headquarter of Belagavi to assert control while Maharashtra asked the Centre to take direct control over more than 800 villages in the region.
Subhayan Chakraborty has been regularly reporting on international trade, foreign policy, and evolving industry and government issues for the past 6 years.
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