The Meghalaya government has scheduled a meeting with the representatives of the residents of State capital Shillong’s Harijan Colony, also known as Punjabi Lane and Them Iew Mawlong, for their relocation.
The Mazhabi Sikhs and other Dalit inhabitants of the colony have been under pressure to vacate the area, considered prime property, since a communal flare-up in May 2018. A quarrel between some women of the area and a tribal bus operator had snowballed into the unrest.
Meghalaya’s Urban Affairs Minister, Sniawbhalang Dhar, said the members of the government’s High-Level Committee (HLC) will meet the leaders of the Harijan Panchayat Committee on September 29 to discuss their relocation to the quarters of the Shillong Municipal Board. The quarters, to be rebuilt after demolition, are not far from the Harijan Colony.
“Our department submitted the blueprint to the HLC chairman, Prestone Tynsong for a suitable site for relocating the Harijan Colony residents. Technical assessment showed it will be possible to relocate all the 342 families to the new location,” he said.
The Urban Affairs Department has proposed the construction of 12 residential blocks, each containing up to 40 flats. The new site has an area of 2.5 acres.
“The construction of the residential blocks would begin only after the meeting with the residents of Harijan Colony,” Mr Dhar said.
The State government had earlier planned to relocate the Harijan Colony residents to a site near a tuberculosis hospital in Shillong, but the heads of the locality’s traditional body opposed the bid.
The Harijan Panchayat Committee had gone to court challenging the government’s move to relocate them from the land they claimed had been donated by the local king almost 200 years ago after they were brought by the British primarily for manual scavenging. The committee members relented conditionally.