By Oken Jeet Sandham
Of late, there have been criticisms against the remarks made by Nagaland Chief Minister TR Zeliang with regard to the chronic Assam-Nagaland border issues. The Chief Minister seemingly stated that Nagaland lacked documents to settle its protracted border row with neighboring Assam. His remarks soon drew flaks from various quarters.
In fact, soon after Zeliang`™s remarks came up, the Assam media jumped over it and generated fair amount of news vindicating their claims, while many Nagas termed his controversial remarks as capitulating.
The inability to resolve the border row between Assam and Nagaland over the years had cost hundreds of innocent lives, while the relationship between the two has been worsening and people living in either side of the borders feel insecure. The two Governments have miserably failed to instill a sense of security into the minds of their citizens living along the border areas.
As they kept dragging on the border problems with no solution at sight, the issues became more compounded for the simple fact that over the years, outsiders and illegal immigrants kept deluging in these vast border areas. Most of them are not indigenous people. Yet the Assam administration has allegedly provided these people with necessary papers making them as bonafide citizens of their State. This move has literally made Nagaland administration handicapped.
Comments and remarks by many Naga leaders including senior politicians after every unfortunate border clash have also become ritual because they would continue to insist on not holding talks with people living in Assam border. These people, they explained, were not real Assamese people.
Strangely, whenever such issues arose, the real Assamese people or any of their civil societies did not react. Their silence emboldened these people living in Assam border areas to go robust against Nagas living in Nagaland border areas.
Again, when there were any casualties due to border violence, the Assam Government would hurriedly announce ex-gratia for those who died in the unfortunate border clashes and also the injured. One such announcement was recently made by Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi when he visited affected villages in the border areas under Golaghat district of Assam bordering Nagaland`™s Wokha district. Such move on the part of Assam is also a clear manifestation that whosoever living in Assam border areas are bonafide citizens of her state.
Looking at these prevailing peculiarities, can anyone confidently ask as to whether our attempts to justify the non-indigenous status of these people living in their (Assam) border areas carry any weight? Not at all, because the real Assamese people or for that matter the Government of Assam have silently accepted that these people are theirs.
It is worth mentioning that in July 1960, an Naga People`™s Convention (NPC) delegation submitted a 16-Point Memorandum to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru reiterating the Nagas`™ claim over the areas which they said were excluded from the erstwhile Naga Hills district by the British government in 1898, 1901 and 1918. The negotiations between the NPC and the Center led to the formation of Nagaland State in 1963.
Unfortunately, according to sources, the boundary dispute started in 1963 following the creation of Nagaland as the 16th State of the Indian Union. Assam insisted on retaining the constitutional boundaries that are defined by the 1962 State of Nagaland Act. It further explained that the boundaries of Nagaland comprise two units `“ the Naga Hills district of Assam created in 1866, whose boundaries were defined in precise terms through a notification of 1925, and the Tuensang areas as per the Naga Hills-Tuensang Areas Act, 1957. However, Nagaland insists on the restoration of the historical boundaries and demands re-transfer of 12,882 square kilometers of Assam`™s land to Nagaland on the ground that the colonial government excluded these Naga areas from the erstwhile Naga Hills district `without the knowledge and much less the consent of the Nagas.`
An official account of the boundary dispute brought out by the Assam government in 1985, titled `Facts About The Assam-Nagaland Border` however, stated: Absolutely no commitment whatsoever was made to the Naga leaders in the 16-Point Agreement in respect of the reserved Forests falling within Assam according to