Inter-State Border Disputes in India
- The Union government in a written reply in the Lok Sabha said that there were seven inter-state border disputes in the country.
- In this article we will explore all these seven disputes briefly.
Here are the seven disputes:
- The Belgaum district is arguably part of one of the biggest inter-state border disputes in India. The district has a large Marathi and Kannada-speaking populations and have been at the centre of a dispute for a long time. The area came under Karnataka in 1956 when states were reorganised and till then it was under the Bombay presidency.
- The border dispute between Assam and Mizoram is a legacy of two British-era notifications of 1875 and 1933, when Mizoram was called Lushai Hills, a district in Assam. The 1875 notification differentiated Lushai Hills from the plains of Cachar and the other demarcated boundary between Lushai Hills and Manipur. While Mizoram became a state only in 1987 following years of insurgency, it still insists on the boundary decided in 1875.
- Assam, on the other hand, wants the boundary demarcated in 1986 (based on the1933 notification). “Why would we accept a Colonial era order? In that case, entire Mizoram was part of Assam before the Independence,” Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on July 27. Mizoram says the 1986 agreement is not acceptable as the Mizo civil society was not consulted at that time.
- The Parwanoo region has had the spotlight over the border dispute between the two states. It is next to the Panchkula district of Haryana and the state has claimed parts of the land in Himachal Pradesh as its own.
- Himachal and Ladakh lay claim to Sarchu, an area on the route between Leh and Manali. It is considered a major point where travellers stop when travelling between the two cities. Sarchu is in between Himachal’s Lahul and Spiti district and Leh district in Ladakh.
- Arunachal's grievance is that the re-organisation of North Eastern states unilaterally transferred several forested tracts in the plains that had traditionally belonged to hill tribal chiefs and communities to Assam. After Arunachal Pradesh achieved statehood in 1987, a tripartite committee was appointed which recommended that certain territories be transferred from Assam to Arunachal. Assam contested this and the matter is before the Supreme Court.
- The problem between Assam and Meghalaya started when the latter challenged the Assam Reorganisation Act of 1971, which gave Blocks I and II of the Mikir Hills or present-day Karbi Anglong district to Assam. Meghalaya contends that both these blocks formed part of the erstwhile United Khasi and Jaintia Hills district when it was notified in 1835. At present, there are 12 points of dispute along the 733-km Assam-Meghalaya border.
- Meghalaya bases its case on survey maps of 1872 and 1929 and certain notifications of 1878 and 1951, while Assam wants to go by the recommendations of the Churachand Committee which in turn has been rejected by Meghalaya. Joint surveys of the disputed border segments have been undertaken in part and the chief ministers of both the states are scheduled to meet again on August 6 in Guwahati to discuss ways to resolve the dispute.
- The longest-running border dispute in the North East is between Assam and Nagaland, which began soon after Nagaland became a state in 1963. The Nagaland State Act of 1962 had defined the state’s borders according to a 1925 notification when Naga Hills and Tuensang Area (NHTA) were integrated into a new administrative unit.
- Nagaland, however, does not accept the boundary delineation and has demanded that the new state should also have all Naga-dominated areas in North Cachar and Nagaon districts. Since Nagaland did not accept its notified borders, tensions between Assam and Nagaland flared up soon after the latter was formed, resulting in the first border clashes in 1965. This was followed by major clashes between the two states along the border in 1968, 1979, 1985, 2007 and 2014.
Why inter-state border disputes remain unresolved?
The States Reorganisation:
- When India started carving out states in 1953, the States Reorganisation Commission said “territorial readjustments between (states) should not assume the form of disputes between alien powers.” Yet, it is the panel’s 1955 report that, political scientists say, most inter-state disputes in the country trace their roots to.
- Several inter-state border disputes have their roots in the reorganisation of states in the 1950s (which) was primarily based on language. As a result, there is a border dispute between Karnataka and Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, and so on.
Language and British era maps as a basis:
- State identity was linked to language. So, if a pocket that spoke the majority language of, for instance, Maharashtra, was clubbed with Karnataka, it opened up the possibility of a future conflict.
- Besides, many of these state demarcations were based on district boundaries created by the British. Not village boundaries. Borders are tied to maps. If a map does not lay out in excruciating detail where the administrative border lies, it can lead to a dispute.Yet, most states are carved out of host states on the basis of colonial cartographies. They seldom acknowledge the socio-cultural liminality of borders.
Why does NE have so many border disputes?
Ethnicity and languages:
- All ethnic communities have the right to be together. But while the States Reorganisation Commission acknowledged that Assamese “was not in fact a language spoken by a majority” up to 1931, it had went ahead and recommended the creation of just one state, Assam, which would administer what are now Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura.
- It allowed Manipur to be a centrally-administered territory. Most of the (northeastern) states were carved out of Assam.
- So, Assam is involved in all the disputes in the region: With Nagaland since 1965, Mizoram since 1972, Meghalaya since 1974 and Arunachal Pradesh since 1992.
The Complex Terrain:
- The other complexity has been terrain — rivers, hills and forests straddle two states in many places and borders cannot be physically marked.
- Colonial maps had left out large tracts of the northeast outside Assam as “thick forests” or marked them “unexplored”. Indigenous communities were, for the most part, left alone.
- Boundaries would be drawn for administrative convenience when the “need” arose.
- The 1956 demarcation did not resolve the discrepancies. When new states were carved out of Assam (Nagaland in 1963, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura and Manipur in 1972, and Arunachal Pradesh in 1987), it was still not addressed.
- Mizoram, for instance, got its first recorded boundary in 1875 after a survey of 6,500 sq miles of “new” territory, unmapped before, to separate it from Cachar and protect British tea plantations there from raids by the indigenous Lushai tribes. Starting in 1903, a new round of map revision took place after a dispute over timber. It was finally notified in 1933. When Mizoram was created, the 1933 map was used. It was smaller than the 1875 map by about 750 sq km. So, political representatives say they want to go back to the 1875 map.
How can a conflict be resolved, and has any ever been?
- Inter-state border disputes can be resolved by the states themselves or by the Centre through dialogue and political settlements.
- Commissions (are) appointed by the Centre. (In the past, they) have given their report but one state or the other has not accepted it.
- Disputes can also be settled by the Supreme Court. For instance, Assam may soon approach it regarding the current row (with Mizoram) and seek status quo.
- The Sundaram Commission recommended a border between Assam and Nagaland, but Nagaland rejected the report. In 1988, Assam filed a case in the Supreme Court. It did the same over its dispute with Arunachal Pradesh, in 1989. Both remain pending.
- With this in mind, the Setalvad Study Team on Centre-State Relationships had in 1968 recommended an inter-state council. It said, “Inter-state disputes need to be settled quickly and impartially otherwise they become festering sores which create friction, prevent development, give a perverse direction to the energies of people and governments and generate hard feelings on all sides.” It was never done.
- The central government has consistently taken the position that inter-State boundary disputes can only be settled amicably with the willing cooperation of the State Governments involved, and that its role in the process is limited to acting as a facilitator for a settlement that promotes mutual accommodation and understanding.