Assam-Meghalaya border
Assam-Meghalaya border in Google map.

Can Meghalaya get back 356 villages in Block I and II from Assam?

There seems to be little hope that Meghalaya can ever get back the areas of Block I and II from Assam.

For last four decades, people have been demanding that Block I and Block II areas, which were part of the erstwhile Khasi-Jaintia Hills district, be transferred back to Meghalaya.

And, under pressure from people and social organizations, successive governments in Meghalaya, often were engaged in talks with the Assam government.

At every meeting, Shillong miserably failed to convince Dispur that the villages originally belonged to the Khasi and Jaintia people, and should be returned to Meghalaya.

At the end of every meeting, both Assam and Meghalaya governments resolve to maintain the status quo on the issue of boundary dispute.

Sources in the Revenue Department in Assam claimed that Meghalaya State Archive does not have enough official documents to reclaim Block I and II areas.

Some of the officials of Meghalaya government’s Revenue Department, who had in-depth knowledge on the issue of Block I and II, have now retired.

Moreover, political parties in Assam’s Karbi Anglong are also opposed to Meghalaya’s demand for reclaim of Block I and II.

As per official records, Blocks I and II (from Jowai subdivision of United Khasi – Jaintia Hills district) were tagged with the United Mikir and North Cachar Hills district for administrative advantages.

Block I and II comprise huge geographical area, and also has a sizeable population. While Block I comprise of 143 villages, Block-II has 213 villages.

People in the 356 villages are mostly of Pnar origin, and even the nomenclature of the villages and river are in Khasi, Pnar or Bhoi dialects.

When Meghalaya was curved out of Assam 48 years ago, on January 21, 1972, the leaders of the All-Party Hill Leaders’ Conference (APHLC) did not bother to set a clear-cut demarcated boundary between two states.

Before every election, political parties highlight in their manifestos that transfer of Block I and II to Meghalaya will be top on their agenda, if voted to power.

But, after the elections, the vexed issue of Block I and II take a back seat, and political parties fail to take up the issue with Dispur on a war-footing.

The four-decade Meghalaya-Assam border dispute has resulted in “huge bloodshed, dislocation of people, loss of employment and economic opportunities.

And in addition to Block I and II, boundary dispute between Assam and Meghalaya extends on two more sides involving the districts of Ri Bhoi and West Khasi Hills.

It is being said that huge areas of present Ri Bhoi district were transferred to Kamrup district, and areas of Garo hills were given away to Goalpara district of Assam.

While Meghalaya shares 733- km long border with Assam, it has 12 identified areas of dispute, covering an area of 2,765.14 sq km.

The 12 disputed areas are – Upper Tarabari, Gizang reserve forest, Hahim, Langpih, Bordwar, Boklapara, Nongwah, Mawtamur, Khanapara-Pilangkata, Deshdemoreah, Khanduli-Psiar and Ratacherra.

Meghalaya deputy chief minister Prestone Tynsong informed the state assembly that there have been 56 incidents of disputes with Assam since 2017.

Meanwhile, the Hynñiewtrep Achik National Movement (HANM) has set 2020 as the final deadline to the Meghalaya government to resolve the boundary dispute issue with Assam.

But, can the Conrad K. Sangma-led Meghalaya government resolve the issue with Assam?

Anirban Roy

Anirban Roy is Editor-in-Chief of Northeast Now. He can be reached at: editor@nenow.in