Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border dispute – UPSC Prelims

Historical background of the boundary dispute between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh:
  • The dispute dates back to the British era when in 1873 British announced inner line regulation.
  • British demarcated planes and frontier Hills, which were later designated as North-East frontier tracts in 1915.
  • These Northeast frontier tracts make up today’s Arunachal Pradesh.
  • The administrative jurisdiction was passed over to Assam, with frontier tracts renamed as Northeast Frontier Agency (NEFA) in 1954.
  • Later in 1972, Arunachal Pradesh was declared as a union territory, and it gained statehood in 1987.
  • However, in 1951, a subcommittee headed by Assam Chief Minister made some recommendations about the administration of NEFA.
  • Based on the committee report, 3648 sq. km of the plain area was transferred from Arunachal Pradesh to Assam’s then Darrang and Lakhimpur districts.
  • Arunachal Pradesh refuses to accept this notification, and this has become a bone of contention.
Why did the demarcation become a bone of contention?
  • Assam feels that the demarcation as per 1951 notification is constitutional and legal.
  • Arunachal Pradesh holds that the transfer was done without consultation of its people. It was arbitrary, defective and no tribal leader from Arunachal Pradesh was consulted. Also, AP had customary rights over these lands and the tribes paid taxes to Ahom rulers.
What steps were taken to handle the boundary dispute between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh?
  • In 1983-84, out of 800 km, 489 km was demarcated.
  • Further demarcation could not take place, as Arunachal Pradesh did not accept the recommendations.
  • Assam filed a case in Supreme Court in 1989, highlighting encroachment made by Arunachal Pradesh. The Court constituted a commission in 2006.
  • The commission submitted its report in 2014 and called for resolution through consensus and discussions.
What should be the way forward?
The Chief Ministers of the two states aims to resolve the dispute. Assam is working to resolve its border disputes with all its neighbouring states including Meghalaya. However, there is a need for a long-term plan which includes all stakeholders.

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