Inter-State Border Disputes

DEC 31

Mains   > Constitution   >   Union and States   >   State reorganisation

WHY IN NEWS?

  • Assam, Meghalaya decided to settle interstate border disputes in six areas by the end of 2021.

MORE ABOUT THE NEWS:

  • The Union Home Ministry (MHA) recently informed the Lok Sabha that 11 States and one Union Territory have boundary disputes between them and “occasional protests and incidents of violence are reported from some of the disputed border areas”.

 

EXAMPLES OF INTER-STATE BORDER DISPUTES:

  • Assam and Meghalaya dispute:
    • Both states share an 885-km-long border. As of now, there are 12 points of dispute along their borders.
    • Meghalaya was carved out of Assam under the Assam Reorganisation Act, 1971, a law that it challenged, leading to disputes.
    • A major point of contention between Assam and Meghalaya is the district of Langpih in West Garo Hills bordering the Kamrup district of Assam.
    • Langpih was part of the Kamrup district during the British colonial period but post-Independence, it became part of the Garo Hills and Meghalaya.
    • Assam considers it to be part of the Mikir Hills in Assam
  • Arunachal Pradesh-Assam dispute
    • 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.
  • Assam-Nagaland dispute
    • This dispute is over Naga Hills and all Naga-dominated area in North Cachar and Nagaon districts, which were part of Naga territory under 1866 notification from British.
  • Assam-Mizoram dispute
    • This dispute is over boundaries in southern Assam's Barak Valley and the Lushai Hills, based on two British-era notifications of 1875 and 1933 with Mizoram demand on boundary as decided in 1875.
  • Himachal Pradesh-Ladakh
    • Himachal and Ladakh lay claim to Sarchu, an area on the route between Leh and Manali.
  • Haryana-Himachal Pradesh
    • 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.
  • Karnataka-Maharashtra
    • 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.
    • The area came under Karnataka in 1956 when states were reorganised and till then it was under the Bombay presidency.
  • Other border disputes which are at dormant stage now:
    • Haryana-Punjab over Chandigarh
    • Karnataka-Kerala over Kasaragod, part of Kerala with many Kannada- speaking people
    • Odisha-West Bengal over Kanika Sands Island in the Bay of Bengal
    • Gujarat-Rajasthan over Mangadh Hill

CAUSES OF SUCH DISPUTES

  • Colonial legacy:
    • British Colonial policy to create and recreate boundaries based on administrative convenience or commercial interests leading to present day claims and counter claims in regions like Northeast.
  • Process of national building
    • At the time of independence in 1947, India consisted of 571 disjointed princely states and provinces directly governed by the British.
    • The States Reorganization Commission (SRC) constituted in 1953 after nearly two years of study, merged them into 14 states and six union territories (UTs).
    • Currently, they have grown into 28 states and eight UTs, making a total of 36 entities. >> This extensive process of state building and demarcation of state boundaries itself paves way for some conflicts.
  • Apathy of Union Government:
    • The approach of the Central Government has consistently been that inter-State disputes can be resolved only with the cooperation of the State Governments concerned and that the Central Government acts only as a facilitator for amicable settlement of the dispute in the spirit of mutual understanding
  • Lack of constitutional mechanism:
    • The constitution makes no provision for a swift and binding decision of such disputes.
    • Article 262 is on the adjudication of disputes relating to waters of inter-state rivers or river valleys. There is no comparable provision on disputes on land.
  • Economic competition between states for resources/land
    • For example: Himachal and Ladakh fight over Sarchu, an area on the route between Leh and Manali, due to its tourism potential.
  • Geographical reasons:
    • Complexities of terrain or geographical features like forests, rivers etc. to properly identify and mark boundaries.
  • Lack of implementation of recommendation on border disputes:
    • For Example: Nagaland rejected Sundaram Commission report on its dispute with Assam. Similarly, Meghalaya rejected the Y.V. Chandrachud Committee report on its dispute with Assam.
  • Regionalism stemming from ethnicity, language etc.
    • Example: Nagaland claims all Naga-dominated area in North Cachar and Nagaon districts >> due to ethnic regionalism
    • Example: Karnataka claims over certain parts of Kasaragod >> because the region has many Kannada- speaking people
  • Political opportunism
    • Political opportunism of using inter-state disputes for vote bank politics.
  • Unclear state re-organization:
    • For example: The reorganization of the State of Assam, starting from Nagaland in 1963 gave rise to 4 inter-state border disputes in North eastern region
  • Threat perception of indigenous people from outsiders migration
  • Failure of constitutional mechanisms to address the border disputes:
    • Ineffective judicial interventions:
      • Under Article 131 (c), the Original Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court extends to any dispute between two or more states involving legal rights (exclusively).
      • But either the solutions come at a slow pace or states don’t cooperate.
      • Example: The Assam-Arunachal Pradesh dispute has been before the Supreme Court since 1989.
      • Example: In the Assam-Nagaland dispute, the one or both states expressed reservation on the Supreme Court appointed commission report or not accepted Supreme Court appointed mediators report respectively.
    • Poor functioning of inter-state councils
      • Article 263 provides for Inter-State Council.
      • Under Article 263 (a), it is competent enough to inquire and advice upon disputes between states.
      • But it was appointed only after Sarkaria Commission recommendations in 1990.
  • Ineffective zonal councils:
    • The meetings of zonal councils are less frequent and mainly revolve around other issues.

IMPACT OF SUCH DISPUTES

  • Social:
    • Violence between States. For example: recently, the Assam-Mizoram dispute turned into a violent clash with the death of several police personnel and civilians.
    • Threat to social harmony in the region due to damage to the social fabric of society.
    • Affect law and order of the region >> undermines people’s trust in law of the land and state machineries >> threat to democracy.
  • Economical:
    • Lack of developmental activities and infrastructure in the disputed regions.
    • Poor investment >> due to fear of conflicts and lack of security >> less economic activities >> less job creation >> unemployment >> more frustration among people >> more conflict
    • Unwanted cost escalations for people and businesses due to additional security deployment at disputed borders
  • Political:
    • Domino effect or chain reaction at other disputed borders or in other inter-state disputes such as river water, migration of people etc. due to trust deficit between states.
    • Rise of secessionist tendencies and groups which pose a threat to internal security. For instance, it can lead to confluence of groups with enemies of India including hostile neighbours.

WAY FORWARD

  • Proper demarcation of boundaries through land surveys:
    • Set up State committees to work with survey of India and other neutral agencies for land surveys.
    • The local communities can also be engaged in this demarcation of borders.
  • Deployment of force and surveillance technology:
    • Maintain peace and tranquility along disputed areas by limited presence of police personnel and use of technology like UAV and satellite imagery for vigilance.
  • Creating no-man’s land along the border
    • Also remove the encroachments from both sides.
    • It curtails economic and social interests behind the dispute and help to devise a “no lose” (non-zero sum) solution to territory dispute.
  • Strengthening of Inter-State Councils and Zonal Councils:
    • Frequent meetings of Inter-State Councils and Zonal Councils for convergence of interests between states and suggest institutional solutions to benefit both by dispute resolution.
  • Mechanism to resolve border disputes:
    • Time-bound resolution of border dispute cases and mechanism to implement its orders or recommendations of court-monitored commissions/mediators or tribunals.
    • For instance, tribunals can be established to hear inter-state border disputes and interpret the old legal documents (e.g. in Assam-Mizoram dispute) to reach a solution.
  • Proactive role of union government:
    • Creation of conducive environment by Union Government to facilitate the coming together of states, based on the spirit of cooperative federalism, for agreement on mediation or implementing the existing recommendations from committees or Joint Administration.
  • Political efforts:
    • Though an ad hoc measure, but national parties could use their party machinery to reach a political understanding, helping to avoid its repercussions in social and economic sphere, keeping the boundaries only on land rather than to be drawn in people minds.

PRACTICE QUESTION:

Q. Examine the role of central government in resolving inter-state border disputes. Also suggest few measures to address such issues in an amicable way.