Instead of being a hindrance to its chances, the border deal struck by the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance government will be a boon for the National People’s Party in the February 27 election, Rambrai Jyrngam MDC Bajop Pyngrope said today.
Pyngrope said this during a debate with representatives of other political parties – the Congress Party, United Democratic Party, Trinamool Congress and Voice of the People Party. The debate was organised by the Hills Youth Collective.
In the agreement to resolve Phase 1 of the border talks last year, Assam and Meghalaya largely split the 36 sq km in dispute down the middle, which drew the ire of political parties, pressure groups and ordinary citizens alike in Meghalaya.
However, the NPP has continued to maintain that the deal is good for the state as the people living in the border areas had been deprived of security and development for decades due to the dispute.
Pyngrope, who defected from the Congress to the NPP last year, praised his new party for the deal and said that the people were in favour of it too and will therefore give the NPP victory in all the border seats.
Allantry Dkhar, of the UDP, tried to give some of the credit to his own party, which is also part of the MDA coalition. He recounted that it was in 2000, during a UDP-led government that an agreement had been struck with Assam to return the Khasi-Jaintia inhabited villages of Blocks 1 and 2 to Meghalaya but that the government was toppled and the deal never saw the light of day.
The UDP member voiced concerns about the deal and said that his party would review it if it wins the election. The UDP has appeared schizophrenic about the agreement – with its ministers in the cabinet never criticising it, while the party leaders outside have done so.
The Congress’s Manuel Badwar was less than impressed, however, saying that, in the process of give and take between the two states, Meghalaya has given more than it has received from Assam.
“I think it is unacceptable for the government to just decide on its own over protected property and protected land because the land does not belong to the government,” he said, adding that such a serious dispute cannot be properly solved in just four months without the participation of the local people.
Responding to this, Pyngrope said he left the Congress because it was not able to solve the border dispute even though, until 2014, it was in power in Meghalaya, Assam and the Centre. Badwar, however, maintained that no one would want their property taken away just because a memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed without involving the owner in discussions first.
Meanwhile, the TMC representative, Bansharailang Pyngrope, reiterated that his party would scrap the Phase 1 agreement if it comes to power.
“Throughout history the state has kept losing land to Assam,” he said.
Batskhem Myrboh, of the VPP, said that his party wants the MoU reviewed and expressed concern on the feeling of the tribal people whose land is now part of Assam and stated that they have been displaced and uprooted from their cultural environment.
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