KOHIMA, Jun 12 (NEPS): Former Minister and leader of Nationalist Congress Party (NPC), Nagaland, Dr TM Lotha, MLA, termed the 1972 Assam-Nagaland Interim Border Agreement as “defective and one-sided” and said it should be immediately reviewed.
Talking to NEPS here on Wednesday, the former Minister in the DAN-I, who was closely monitoring, besides so vocal on the Assam-Nagaland border issue since long time back, said the 1972 Interim Border Agreement which was again reviewed in 1979, should be further immediately reviewed because “it is defective and one-sided favoring Assam.”
Citing instances to substantiate his charges, Dr Lotha said as per the 1972 Interim Border Agreement, the 7 reserved forests along the border should be looked after by Assam Forest Department. Unfortunately, instead of taking care of the said 7 reserved forests, almost all the reserved forest areas had disappeared over the years and over 130 villages came up inside these reserved forest areas with CGI sheets provided by the Assam Government. Then according to the agreement, the border areas within the Disputed Area Belt (DAB) should be under the security maintenance of the “neutral forces” under the command of an IG of Assam Police. “So it nothing but an extension of Assam police,” Dr Lotha said and further argued that the very purpose of placing the DAB under neutral forces was defeated.to
Again as per the agreement, all the police stations and outposts should be withdrawn from the DAB areas, Nagaland obliged to whereas Assam did not. As such the Nagas living in the border areas had been extensively suffering over the years. “Because any person arrested in the border areas should be handed over to the nearest police stations within 24 hours and since we don’t have any police station in the border areas, any Naga arrested had to be taken to Assam police stations and for which their families had to experience unusual hardships in bailing them out,” Dr Lotha narrated. “Because of all these factors, I termed the agreement as defective and one-sided favoring Assam and as such it needs immediate reviewing,” he said.
Dr Lotha also recalled how a team of 10 MLAs led by him during the DAN-I Ministry was trying to ease the frequent border problems facing the Nagas along the entire border with Assam. “A team of 10 MLAs led by me wrote a letter to Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio for the urgency to construct the foothill road under the funding of the Asian Development Bank (ADB),” he said. “The Chief Minister also agreed to our proposal.”
He further disclosed that even DPR was prepared and it was sent to ADB. They had also given them green signal. Regrettably, after this positive development, nothing was pursued and the matter was kept in cold storage, he pointed out.
Dr Lotha reiterated the importance of the construction of the “foothill road” on two counts. “One, whenever there were any type of bandhs or agitations or strikes in Assam side, the Nagas mainly living along the border can travel without passing Assam. Two, it will be economical as the road is much shorter than the one we take it through Assam,” the NCP MLA explained.
Dr Lotha also revealed that in 2006, he had a thorough discussion with the Chief Minister that there were fund of about Rs 2 and ½ crore for the construction of Doyang Bridge near Governor’s Camp. “In fact, it was reflected in the works program and even a tender was floated,” he said. “But regrettably, work order was never issued and as such no bridge is still over Doyang River in this particular area.” “The foothill road will have to cross the Doyang River near the Governor’s Camp,” he added.