Every time there is an election, the issue of dual voters gets prominence. While on one hand, there is concern about people casting votes in two neighbouring states, on the other people of such areas complain about not getting due attention from their respective states. As Assam goes to polls, all other north-eastern states barring Sikkim have to gear up even if there is no election in those states. The pan-NE poll activity is fuelled by the geographical factor that Assam shares border with as many as six NE states – Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya. All these states, especially Arunachal, Nagaland and Meghalaya have history of tension over border dispute.

Meghalaya is the only state which shares its border with Assam, and no other state.  There are 12 areas with dispute between the states. Due to the vague boundary, dual voters are plenty in these regions. Why do they vote in both the states? The apparent reason is the pre-poll ‘benefits’ doled out by candidates. But the perennial factor behind this behaviour of the people is insecurity. They are not secure about their identity. They do not know which state they belong to. They are now aware what solution the states will arrive at in future.

If at all the states are able to solve the four-decade long boundary dispute once and for all, it may not be welcome for all the border residents. The fear of being compelled to shift the loyalty has prompted these people to “keep both sides happy”. And the best way to keep one’s identity intact in a democratic set-up is to vote. Thus they can maintain their chances of living in both the states. The normal voice of protests against this phenomenon is not from the fringe areas. Such hue and cry is raised in the mainland region where people are no away affected by dual voting. As such voices become louder, the border residents feel more insecure about their identity. They will never stop dual voting then. Development is the only answer to allay their fear and stop dual voting.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on March 25, 2016)

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