The Nagaland government Tuesday appealed to the Assam-based organisations to call off their indefinite economic blockade of National Highway 39, the lifeline of Nagaland and Manipur.
Five Assam-based organisations led by the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) Friday imposed an indefinite economic blockade against Nagaland to protest the alleged encroachment of land at Mekirang area by Nagas on the Assam-Nagaland border.
The agitating groups are demanding return of about 250 bighas of land in Mekirang, which they claim was allegedly encroached by tribals from Nagaland.
However, Nagaland officials said, Mekirang - located between Assam's Golaghat district and Nagaland's Wokha district - is under the jurisdiction of Nagaland.
"We appealed to them (agitating groups) to put off their economic blockade on humanitarian grounds as it has affected the common man in Nagaland and Manipur," Nagaland Chief Secretary Lalthara told IANS.
Hundreds of trucks carrying essential goods and medicines to Nagaland and Manipur have been stranded for the last five days at Rangajan Tiniali (tri-junction) on National Highway No.39 near Golaghat.
In a joint letter to Nagaland Home Minister Imkong Imchen, the Naga Council and Dimapur Chamber of Commerce and Industries (DCCI) has demanded that he intervene immediately to resolve the stand-off.
"If the blockade is extended further there may be chaos in Nagaland and Manipur, which might result in public unrest," they said, suggesting that both the Assam and Nagaland governments provide security and escort to the stranded vehicles.
Lalthara said: "Mekirang area is under the jurisdiction of the Nagaland government and I don't think the Assam government would say that Mekirang is a disputed area."
Lalthara said that the dispute at Mekirang is purely a dispute between landlords from Nagaland and settlers from Assam.
"The land which these organisations are arguing over is traditionally owned by the Naga people of Nagaland and the tribal adivasi are only settlers," he stated.
"Adivasis were allowed to cultivate on payment of annual land tax but later refused to pay and instead claimed ownership of the land," Lalthara added.
The Assam-Nagaland border row has claimed over 450 lives since 1963. Four districts of Assam - Sivasagar, Golaghat, Jorhat and Karbi Anglong - share a 500-km-long border with Nagaland.
Assam claims that over 55,000 hectares of land - including vast forest tracts - are occupied by the Naga people. Eviction drives led to bloody clashes in 1979 and 1985 in the Merapani area of Golaghat district.
The worst clash was on June 4, 1985, when over 100 people died in firing between Assam and Nagaland police at Merapani. The bloody clash led both Assam and Nagaland governments to sign an interim agreement to maintain status quo at the boundary.