A boundary dispute has cropped up between the two neighbouring states of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir — which shares common boundaries with atleast three border districts of Kangra, Chamba and Lahaul-Spiti.
Having already drawn the attention of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, the dispute relates to alleged unauthorised encroachments made by J&K in the state’s territory along its boundaries with Lahaul-Spiti, a quiet tribal belt, which remains under snow for almost half the year.
Infact, after the closure of the Rohtang Pass (13,051 feet), which connects Keylong via road, the district headquarter in Lahaul-Spiti, remains disconnected from rest of the world during winters.
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Lahaul-Spiti MLA Ravi Thakur alleges that natives of J&K have erected temporary structures and stalls deep inside the state’s territory next to Sarchu (100 km from Keylong) and is the last village on the Manali-Keylong-Leh National Highway. He further claims that the Ladakh administration has staked its claim over the territory and thus have allowed its locals set-up ventures inside Himachal Pradesh during the tourist season. The MLA now fears that tension may escalate between residents on the either sides if not acted upon quickly.
The Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation has also been engaged in lot of tourism activity at Sarchu as it happens to be a gate-way town for those coming from Ladakh and Leh or those going to J&K via the Manali-Leh National Highway ,which crosses through three highest passes.
Notably ,there are two points on the boundary,from where J&K has tried to occupy Lahaul-Spiti. Beside Sarchu ,the natives of Zanskar have also entered the state’s territory. According to Thakur, some landmarks (copper pillars) are still traceable which certifies the boundary of Himachal Pradesh but J&K was in no mood to settle the issue.
Ravi,who is also the vice-chairman of the National Commission for Schedules Tribes said he had summoned officials of both the states beside top officials of the Home Ministry to resolve the dispute . Divisional Commissioner (central) Devesh Kumar who attended the meeting suggested undertaking of a proper demarcation of the boundary to ensure that the dispute doesn’t flare up.
“ We are going to take-up the matter at the highest levels of the government. Officials of the Survey of India will also be roped in so that a correct position can be ascertained .The issue falls within the jurisdictions of the two states and being neighbours ,we can always sit across the table”, said Chief Secretary V C Pharka.
Officials at Lahaul-Spiti, however,refused to comment asserting that they have asked the Chief Secretary to take-up the matter with his counterpart in J&K as Ladakh administration refuses to extend cooperation and continues to keep its positions.
“During the meeting called by MLA Thakur in Delhi, the Ladakh administration sent only lower level officials who did not make the positions clear themselves advising to resolve the matter at the higher level comprising officials of the two governments,” informed an IAS officer.