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UPSC Sansad TV: Perspective- Inter State Border Dispute

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Introduction:

Union Home Minister held a meeting with the Chief Ministers of Maharashtra and Karnataka on the border dispute between the two States. Both sides agreed that neither State will press their claims further till the judgement of the Supreme Court on this matter and a panel of three ministers each from both the states will meet and discuss this issue in detail. Karnataka and Maharashtra are not the only two States involved in Border dispute. Central govt in December last year had informed the Parliament that there are boundary disputes arising out of demarcation of boundaries and claims and counter claims over territories between Andhra Pradesh-Odisha, Haryana-Himachal Pradesh, UT of Ladakh-Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra-Karnataka, Assam-Arunachal Pradesh, Assam-Nagaland, Assam-Meghalaya, Assam-Mizoram. Some matters related to division of assets are also pending between Andhra Pradesh-Telangana and Bihar-Jharkhand.

Need for the Interstate Boundary Commission:

  • Considering the contesting claims of both the parties and the complexity of the issue, the foremost priority in working out a solution should be the institution of anIndependent Interstate boundary commission.
  • After a careful consultative study, the commission should ideally formulate a solutionthat is considerate of all the stakeholders’ concerns.
  • One option could be the utilization of the disputed landsby the central government after compensating both the states.
  • Alternatively, an option of compensating one state and awarding land to the other or awarding the disputed land to both the states concerned equally could be considered as per stakeholders’ acknowledgement.
  • Whatever be the solution once worked out and accepted by the states, the Court could play a role of a guardian and take serious note of its arbitrary acts.

Reasons for border disputes:

  • At ground zero, it is the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) for Maharashtra and pro-Karnataka organisations like Karnataka Rakshana Vedike for Karnataka which have been keeping the issue alive.
  • The states reorganization:
    • 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.

Measures needed:

  • 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.

Conclusion:

  • India is the epitome of unity in diversity. However, to strengthen this unity furthermore, both the Centre and state governments need to imbibe the ethos of cooperative federalism.
  • But the ones taking the brunt of the frequent protests and acts of violence are—like always in such disputes—the common people, irrespective of the language they speak.
  • 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.