The border in Golaghat district had always remained the key points of disputes. Neutral forces are stationed along the contentious area since 1971. Trouble started on August 12 when miscreants from Nagaland fired on agitators outside the CRPF camp. The protesters were demanding release of two students suspected to have been abducted by a Naga insurgent. Following this, Naga miscreants from Nagaland attacked villages, forcing 10,000 people to shift to relief camps.

Why Assam and Nagaland is at tug-of-war

The longest and bloodiest of these is the border dispute between Assam and Nagaland, which began right at the inception of Nagaland state in 1963. The Nagaland State Act of 1962 had defined its borders according to the 1925 notification when Naga Hills and Tuensang Area (NHTA) were included. Nagas did not accept the boundary delineation and demanded that Nagaland should encompass the Naga Hills and all Naga- dominated area in North Cachar and Nagaon districts, which were part of Naga territory according to the 1866 notification. Since Nagaland did not accept its notified borders, tensions between Assam and Nagaland soon erupted resulting in the first border clashes in 1965 at Kakodonga Reserve Forest. Since then, violent clashes along the Assam-Nagaland border have become a regular feature, with major armed conflicts reported in 1968, 1979, 1985 and 2007.

What has granting of statehood to Nagaland got to do with the dispute?

It is a moot point whether granting statehood has adequately addressed the issue of ethnic identity. But it surely had negative argument in the form of various border disputes between Assam and these newly created states. It is important to note that these states were hurriedly carved out of Assam without paying much attention to the realities on the ground.

There are sizeable populations of Mizos and Nagas in the Cachar Hills, making it possible for both Mizoram and Nagaland to claim territories in Assam. Also, the Central government transferred areas that legitimately belonged to Assam, thus creating sources for potential tensions. Dimapur was given to Nagaland. It caused heartburn among the Dimasas of North Cachar Hills, as Dimapur was their capital for a long time.

The Central government was well aware that its decisions might lead to tensions between states, but it did not create any mechanism to address these disputes and left these problems for resolution at a later date.

Steps that government took

The concerned states tried to resolve the issue by holding negotiations which unfortunately failed and third party interference was sought to resolve the matter. The Centre had earlier constituted two commissions, the Sundaram Commission (1971) and the Shastri Commission (1985), to settle the Assam-Nagaland border dispute and they failed to resolve the matter as the concerned states did not accept their recommendations. Nagaland, decided to co-operate with each other to solve their respective border disputes with Assam. They strongly favoured negotiations with Assam and opposed any third party intervention.

By Shri Krishna Iyer