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Shillong Dalit Sikhs to challenge eviction move

The Shillong Municipal Board. Photo: smb.gov.in  

The Dalit or Mazhabi Sikhs of the Harijan Colony adjoining Iewduh, the commercial hub of Meghalaya capital Shillong, would be challenging the government’s bid to take possession of their land after evicting them.

After a Cabinet meeting on Thursday, Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma said the government was set to take possession of the Harijan Colony land within a week by following “due procedures”. The employees of the Shillong Municipal Board residing at the Harijan Colony would be relocated to the staff quarters on the premises of the board’s temporary office in another area of the city, he stated.

The 2-acre Harijan Colony, also known as Punjabi Lane or Sweepers’ Lane, has about 350 families living in two-storey hovels flanking a 300-metre lane. Only a few families have members as employees of the municipal board.

Conflict in 2018

The Harijan Colony was at the centre of a conflict following a quarrel between some locality women and a bus driver on May 31, 2018. An exchange of words snowballed into a communal clash with local tribal youths laying siege to the colony for a few days, forcing the authorities to clamp indefinite curfew in major parts of Shillong.

One of the reasons behind the violence was a bid to shift the colony and make room for a commercial complex.

The Cabinet discussed the report that the High-Level Committee, set up on June 4, 2018 to find a feasible solution for the relocation of the Harijan Colony, submitted to the government recently, Mr. Sangma noted. The discussion covered the genesis of the issue, challenges and the various events that took place during the committee’s three-year exercise.

Tripartite agreement

“The State Government and the Shillong Municipal Board have signed a tripartite agreement to take possession of the land from the Syiem of Mylliem and the government will do so within a week,” the Chief Minister observed.

Syiem is the king-like customary head of a Khasi tribal administrative area.

“We are not sure how the Chief Minister said they can take the land donated to us by the Syiem of Mylliem 200 years ago. In February 2019, the High Court of Meghalaya gave a judgement in our favour, establishing our right over the piece of land,” Gurjit Singh, general secretary of the Punjabi Lane’s Gurdwara Committee, told The Hindu on Friday.

“The government wants to evict us forcefully when the High Court said status quo should be maintained. It is also surprising how the High-Level Committee submitted its report when the court had stayed its proceedings on the basis of our petition,” he remarked.

‘Report copy not given’

The government did not provide a copy of the committee’s report to them as mandated by the court. Neither were the Harijan Colony residents made privy to the agreement the government claimed to have signed with the Shillong Municipal Board, he said, adding, “We are talking to our lawyers to challenge the government’s move. We are also refreshing our litigation in the Supreme Court on this issue.”

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2021 5:04:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/shillong-dalit-sikhs-to-challenge-eviction-move/article36893873.ece

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