MERAPANI (GOLAGHAT), Dec 4 - If so many serious disputes all over the world can be resolved from time to time, then why can�t the governments - Assam, Nagaland and the Centre - draw the curtains on the Assam-Nagaland border row by way of a peaceful settlement? Is it not possible for the two neighbouring States (Assam and Nagaland) to sit down across the table and amicably sort out the issue once and for all?
This was a question Debajit Das, a young shop-owner in this small border town that has witnessed turmoil many a times in the past four decades, asked.
His apprehension is due to the sensitive and complex nature of a disagreement between the two neighbouring States under reference, with Nagaland being carved out from Assam in 1963, and refusing to accept the boundary line by subsequently laying claim over large tracts of land belonging to Assam.
Merapani shares a 27-km-long border with Wokha district of Nagaland and has witnessed several bloody clashes in the past, with two major incidents � in 1979 and 1985 � that led to the death of over 150 people, including Assam Police personnel and civilians following indiscriminate firing by Naga gunmen.
Merapani falls under D sector of the Assam-Nagaland border and is a part of the disputed area which is better known by its acronym �DAB�. The neutral force (CRPF) has been entrusted with the responsibility of guarding the inter-State border in order to maintain peace.
Das, in his late 20s, told The Assam Tribune that he had heard from his parents that the border dispute has led to tension in the town and adjoining areas and has witnessed violence leading to loss of lives, with the Assam side often bearing the brunt.
The young trader said thought the present situation was apparently peaceful and people were carrying on with their daily activities normally, but an undercurrent of tension and uncertainty always prevailed.
Echoing Das, Pabitra Bora, another shop-keeper, said Naga people from across the border constitutes a major chunk of their customer base. However, Bora said that whenever there is a �major incident� in the border area, it triggers a crisis leading to imposing of economic blockade against Nagaland by several organisations, following which business of the trading community is adversely affected.
Bora added that such unsavoury incidents happen all too frequently, thereby leading to heavy financial losses. �We cannot think of investing heavily as the fear of uncertainty always looms large. Any untoward incident, or attack on Assamese villagers or vehicle driver plying along the inter-State route can disturb normalcy, which seems to be very fragile here," the trader opined.
For allowing uncertainty to continue, the border residents apart from blaming the Assam Government, also holds the Nagaland Government equally responsible despite either side showing seriousness to hammer out a workable solution.
Niren Gogoi, a public transport operator whose vehicle plies between the two neighbouring States, has a strong grouse against the Assam Government for failing to protect its citizens.
Pointing out the �one-sided rules�, Gogoi said that people from Assam have to obtain Inner Line Permit from the Nagaland Government to visit their State, while on the contrary, people from Nagaland can freely come to Assam.
Moreover, he alleged that most of the time Assamese people going to Nagaland on business trips are harassed by their policemen, Naga militants and even goons, who demand money. In contrast, hardly any Naga person is harassed or ill-treated by �our people�, Gogoi said, adding that Naga people, including women in large numbers come to Assam every day without any fear.
Golaghat district AJYCP general secretary Nikunjoy Medhi said that successive governments in Assam have failed to provide adequate security to the people living along the border, following which the Nagas have taken full advantage of the �weak policy� towards the boundary adopted by respective State governments.
Meanwhile, Golaghat Deputy Commissioner Gaurav Bothra told this newspaper that the current situation in Merapani was peaceful and normalcy was prevailing along the inter-State border.
Bothra informed this Correspondent that the Golaghat district administration and their Wokha counterpart kept in touch with border magistrates of both the districts and held meetings at regular intervals.