Guwahati, Dec 21: Assam Border Areas Development Minister Atul Bora on Tuesday said that there are reports of "pressure" on people in disputed border areas along Meghalaya in Assam's Kamrup (Rural) district to choose the neighbouring state while settling the boundary row.
He did not specify from which source the pressure was being put, though local Boko MLA Nandita Das of the Opposition Congress claimed that Meghalaya Police also had a role in encouraging local residents to opt for the bordering state.
Replying to a Zero Hour discussion raised by Das in the Assembly, Bora said, "We have some reports that police administration is encouraging people (in border areas) to choose Meghalaya."
"We have been observing all happenings in these areas minutely and our report will be based on it," he added.
Bora and Das are members of a committee formed by Assam government to look into the disputes in Kamrup (Rural) district areas bordering Meghalaya, and the panel had visited some of these areas a couple of months back for on-ground inspection.
They were accompanied by members of a similar committee from Meghalaya side and during the joint inspection visit, the delegates had held meetings with the public to gauge their preference for either state.
Assam and Meghalaya had identified 12 points of disputes at chief ministerial-level talks in August this year, with six points, including the area under Boko legislative assembly constituency in Assam, taken up for resolution in the first phase.
A final joint statement by the two states based on reports of ministerial-level committees set for dealing with the six points of dispute is slated to be announced at the end of this month.
Bora further said willingness or preference of the residents to choose a state is not the sole criterion for settling the disputes, with ethnicity also being an important factor that will be taken into consideration.
He also said Assam has administrative control in the areas under Boko LAC and though these are mostly Garo community dominated areas, many such villages are likely to opt to remain with Assam.
The minister also said the government has received a memorandum submitted by the people of those areas through the local officials wherein they have mentioned their preferences and problems.
"We have to ensure safety of lives and property in these areas. We have started patrolling by police and activated the village defence parties. Quick response teams are also on stand by in case of any law and order problem," Bora added.
Earlier raising the matter, Nandita Das alleged that people of Assam were being threatened by miscreants of Meghalaya to choose the neighbouring state during their representations for settling the disputes.
"Meghalaya police is interfering with the choice the people make in these borders areas, though our police have abstained from getting involved in it," she added.
Das also claimed that people from Assam were not allowed to attend the meeting organised by the joint inspection team to give the impression before the delegation that the local residents preferred Meghalaya.
Meghalaya was carved out of Assam as a separate state in 1972 and it had challenged the Assam Reorganisation Act, 1971, leading to disputes related to 12 areas in different parts of the shared 884.9 km long border.