Shillong: Amid efforts to resolve the Assam-Meghalaya border dispute, the Meghalaya government on Wednesday held a consultative meeting with Khasi & Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC & JHADC), NGOs, and other political leaders in the state.

The meeting was held at the Secretariat in Shillong to seek opinions and suggestions on the Meghalaya-Assam border issue pertaining to the 6 out of the 12 disputed areas to be taken up in the 1st phase.

All the chairman of the regional committees on the border issue who are also Cabinet ministers – Prestone Tynsong, Sniawbhalang Dhar, and Renikton Tongkhar – attended the meeting. The report of the regional committee of West Khasi Hills and Ri-have already been submitted. The report from the Jaintia hills committee is awaited.

Speaking with mediapersons, Deputy CM Prestone Tynsong said, “We had a very detailed discussion – suggestions and submissions were made by stakeholders concerned. We accepted their views and I am happy to inform that we will go forward with the pending issues to resolve the border dispute.”

Adding that the Meghalaya government will now examine the suggestions made by political parties, traditional heads or NGOs, and the CM will meet his counterpart for further discussions.

“This is the last consultation meeting we had but for the next phase, which is the second phase for the remaining six areas, it will probably be taken up next year. We can move forward once the first phase is done,” he added.

Renikton Tongkhar, the chairman of the regional committee of West Khasi Hills district, said it was impressive to see the various stakeholders being so cooperative in this move to resolve the border issue.

“Extremely glad that the meeting went very well and we are all united in resolving the issue. We are happy that we are getting the cooperation of traditional heads, NGOs,” said Tongkhar.

Concept of a hill state must remain intact

The Khasi Students’ Union has urged the Meghalaya govt to take into consideration all traditional heads while trying to resolve the border issue. KSU general secretary Donald Thabah said, “We have suggested to the government to take into account the very concept of a hill state because when the hill state of Meghalaya was created it was created based on linguistic lines, ethnicity, customary laws, traditions, and several others which are binding to us. That is the reason why the hill state was created because we are different from them.”

The NGOs said if any Khasi or Garo village ends up going to Assam after this then the very concept of a hill state is incomplete. Thabah stated that it is important that all those areas which are under those particular himas should fall under the state of Meghalaya.

Other NGOs like Jaintia Students’ Union (JSU), Hynniewtrep Youths’ Council (HYC), Hynniewtrep National Youth Front (HNYF), Federation of Khasi-Jaintia and Garo People (FKJGP), and several others attended the consultative meeting.

HYC president Robertjune Kharjahrin lauded the government for including the NGOs in the meeting, adding that they were happy to see that the government was involving all important stakeholders.

JSU general secretary Treibor Raul Suchen said under the six areas of differences there are several villages that will have to go through re-demarcation.

Concerning the step taken by the govt, Suchen said, “What we are concerned about is if the traditional heads are involved or not in the regional committee’s set up. Those who know the proper demarcation of an area are the people from the area; we or the government will not be experts on it.”

Meanwhile, not a single political leader from the Congress or TMC attended the meeting.

Tongkhar said that they had expected to see them at the meeting since this was an invitation for all political parties but unfortunately none of them turned up. “They know better why they did not come. We were hoping to get their suggestions,” said Tongkhar.

United Democratic Party (UDP) general secretary Jemino Mawthoh also echoed similar views and said it was a fruitful discussion. Mawthoh lauded the government for constituting the regional committees to look into the ground reality to understand in-depth what is really going on.

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