Assam-Meghalaya Boundary Dispute

The recent firing incident on the Assam-Meghalaya border has put the focus on the five-decade-old boundary issue between the two north-eastern states.

The dispute

  • Meghalaya was separated from Assam in 1970 as an autonomous State, and it achieved full statehood in 1972.
  • The Assam Reorganisation (Meghalaya) Act of 1969, which the Meghalaya administration refused to approve, served as the foundation for the creation of the new State.
  • This was due to the Act adopting a 1951 committee’s suggestions for defining Meghalaya’s border.
  • Areas of the current East Jaintia Hills, Ri-Bhoi, and West Khasi Hills districts in Meghalaya were relocated to the Karbi Anglong, Kamrup (metro), and Kamrup districts of Assam based on the recommendations of that panel.
  • Following statehood, Meghalaya disputed these transfers, alleging they belonged to its indigenous chieftains.
  • Assam said that Meghalaya’s administration was unable to produce any paperwork or historical records to support its claim to these territories.
  • On the basis of an official claim made by Meghalaya in 2011, the dispute was reduced to 12 sectors after claims and counterclaims.

Other North-East boundary disputes

  • Assam, which has border issues with numerous states, was mainly eliminated from the creation of the Northeastern states.
  • Apart from Mizoram, which gradually split off into distinct states during British rule, Assam also encompassed modern-day Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, and Meghalaya during that time. Assam is now having boundary issues with each of them.
  • Assam and Nagaland are separated by a 500-km border.
  • In two significant violent incidents that occurred in 1979 and 1985, at least 100 people died. The Supreme Court is now hearing the boundary dispute.
  • Conflicts were first documented along the approximately 800 km Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border in 1992, according to the same study.
  • Since then, both sides have made a number of claims of unauthorised encroachment and there have been sporadic skirmishes. The Supreme Court is now deliberating on this boundary dispute.
  • The 884-km border between Assam and Meghalaya also frequently experiences flare-ups. There are now 12 areas of contention between the two states, according to statements from the Meghalayan government.

Government of both states

  • The two States first attempted to negotiate a settlement to their border dispute, but their first significant move came in May 1983 when they established a joint official committee to handle the matter.
  • The committee recommended that the Survey of India redefine the boundary with the participation of both States in its report turned in in November 1983 in an effort to resolve the conflict.
  • There was no further action taken. As more territories started to be in dispute, the two States decided to establish an impartial panel in 1985.
  • The committee, which was led by Justice Y.V. Chandrachud, sent in its report in 1987.
  • The report was rejected by Meghalaya because it was reportedly pro-Assam.
  • 2019 saw a petition from the Meghalayan administration asking the Supreme Court to order the Centre to resolve the conflict. The petition was turned down.

How was the ice broken?

  • When the nation celebrates its 75th anniversary of independence on August 15, 2022, the Home Minister requested all of the north-eastern States to settle their boundary disputes by that date in January 2021.
  • Given that the sister-States in the area either shared a ruling party, it was thought that the project might move more quickly.
  • The two States decided to restart negotiations at the CM level in June 2021 and to use a “give-and-take” approach to resolve their differences once and for all.
  • Six “least complicated” areas—Tarabari, Gizang, Hahim, Boklapara, Khanapara-Pilingkata, and Ratacherra—from the 12 disputed sectors were picked for resolution in the first round.
  • Three regional committees were established by each of the two States, one for each district impacted by the disputed sectors.

Principles followed

  • The “five principles” on how to handle the problem were entrusted to these committees, each of which was led by a cabinet minister.
  • These criteria include a contested area’s historical facts, ethnicity, administrative convenience, people’s willingness, and the contiguousness of the land, preferably with natural boundaries like rivers, streams, and rocks.
  • The committee members interviewed people in the contested areas and met with local stakeholders on multiple occasions.
  • This made it possible for the six contested sections to be closed on March 29.


  • Assam government officials argued that it was preferable to let go of areas over which they had no administrative authority than to “live with an annoyance forever.”
  • The “give-and-take” model, according to people in the other six contentious sectors, might be disastrous for them.
  • Non-tribal individuals are more likely to be afraid of living in a “tribal Meghalaya with no rights” than tribal people.
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