Protests in Assam are getting louder by the day against the likelihood of large tracts of the state’s territory getting included in ‘Greater Nagalim’ once the Centre signs a final agreement with the NSCN(IM).
While the opposition Congress partry has held a series of protest meetings in areas bordering Nagaland in Sivasagar, Jorhat and Golaghat districts in the past few days, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), Asom Jatiyabadi Yuva-Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) and other groups have warned chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal against not taking timely steps to protect the state’s territory.
The NSCN(IM), which has reached the final stage of a negotiated settlement with New Delhi, parties and groups in Assam fear that the Centre would cede to its demand for inclusion of large tracts of Assam territory in ‘Greater Nagalim’, in which it wants “all Naga-inhabited areas” of the region covered. Over 66,000 hectare of Assam territory has been under encroachment of Nagaland, with the two states fighting a legal battle in the Supreme Court over final ownership of the land.
The Congress party in Assam has alleged that the BJP-led government of Sarbananda Sonowal had failed to assert itself before the Centre to protect the state’e territory and free the 66,000 hectare tract currently under Nagaland’s encroachment. “The state government has failed to convene a special session of the state assembly to discuss the issue and take a strong stand for protecting its land,” Debabrata Saikia, leader of the Opposition said.
Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), an ally of the BJP, on its part has held the Congress responsible for Nagaland encroaching land belonging to the state. “It was the Congress party during whose long rule Nagaland had encroached upon Assam’s territory. Of late, the Congress is trying to whip up tension along the inter-state border by unnecessarily blaming the state government,” AGP president Atul Bora, who is also agriculture minister in the Sonowal government, said.
Chief minister Sonowal however has claimed that his government would ensure that not an inch of Assam territory was included in NSCN(IM)’s ‘Greater Nagalim’ map. “We have taken up the issue more than once with the Union home minister and he has assured me that Assam’s territorial sanctity would remain intact,” Sonowal has said.
But the Congress and the student bodies do not seem to be amused by chief minister Sonowal’s assurances. “The Centre should make public the contents of the Framework Agreement it had signed with the NSCN(IM) in August 2015. We strongly suspect that the government is trying to hide something that is going to seriously affect Assam,” AASU general secretary Lurin Jyoti Gogoi said.