Shillong Sikhs given relocation blueprint

The Harijan Panchayat Committee will consult experts to understand the plan before taking a final call.

October 01, 2022 02:59 pm | Updated 02:59 pm IST - GUWAHATI

A file photo used for representational purpose only.

A file photo used for representational purpose only. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

GUWAHATI

The Meghalaya government has handed over its relocation plan to the Harijan Panchayat Committee (HPC) representing the Mazhabi Sikhs and other Dalit residents of State capital Shillong’s Harijan Colony or Punjabi Lane.

The plan comprises the blueprint with details for the relocation of 342 families from Harijan Colony – in the middle of Iewduw, the largest commercial market in Meghalaya – to the quarters of the Shillong Municipal Board on the Bishop Cotton Road nearby.

“We will consult engineers and architects to understand the blueprint and follow it up with a meeting of all the residents before taking a final call on shifting from where we have been living for almost 200 years,” HPC secretary Gurjit Singh told The Hindu on October 1. “The process of getting expert opinions on the blueprint will begin after the Durga Puja holidays,” he said.

Harijan Colony was virtually under siege for weeks following a communal flare-up in May 2018. A quarrel between a group of women of Harijan Colony and a tribal driver of a government-run city bus over parking of the vehicle led to the unrest.

This led to the demand from local NGOs and some political parties that the residents of Harijan Colony, living in two-storey hovels flanking a 300-metre lane, should be shifted. The HPC went to court when the State government acceded to the demand allegedly to clear the area for a private commercial complex.

The government had also formed a high-level committee soon after the unrest to resolve the issue. This committee headed by Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong examined relevant records and documents relating to the relocation of the residents of Harijan Colony residents.

In September, the State government decided to relocate the 342 families to 30-40 flats in 12 new blocks on a 2.5-acre plot occupied by the Shillong Municipal Board. Most Harijan Colony residents, brought by the British from Punjab for manual scavenging in the 1800s, are employees or descendants of employees of the board.

“If the HPC accepts the blueprint, we will have to demolish the existing buildings that are in a dilapidated condition and construct the dwelling units anew,” a government spokesperson said.

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