Shillong’s Sikhs get into Meghalaya bypoll rhetoric
Congress tears into NPP’s assertion on eviction, by-election outcome notwithstanding
A 1,000 Mazhabi or Dalit Sikhs have wafted into the bypoll rhetoric in two Meghalaya Assembly constituencies quite far from the part of Shillong they face eviction from.
By-elections to three Assembly constituencies in the hill State are scheduled on October 30. While Rajabala is more than 300 km away in western Meghalaya, Mawphlang and Mawryngkneng are 30-35 km from Shillong.
Deputy Chief Minister and National People’s Party (NPP) leader Prestone Tynsong had during an election campaign said the State government “will evict the Harijan Colony residents” whether or not his party wins the by-elections.
Harijan Colony, locally called Them Iew Mawlong, is the area in Shillong where the Sikhs reside. The area falls in the North Shillong Assembly constituency represented by Adelbert Nongrum of the Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement.
The NPP is contesting all three constituencies and so is the Congress. The NPP’s regional ally, the United Democratic Party, is contesting two seats, while the BJP, also an ally, is contesting only the Rajabala seat.
Congress leader’s advice
Senior Congress leader Ampareen Lyngdoh hit back at Mr. Tynsong for making an “irresponsible” statement on a serious issue from a public platform. She advised him and others in the government not to dilute the issue as it could affect peace and communal harmony in the State.
Ms. Lyngdoh also slammed the government for allegedly keeping Mr. Nongrum in the dark about any decisions relating to Harijan Colony and its residents, who the government wants to relocate to reportedly pursue a commercial complex when the place is vacated.
Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma had a few days ago said his government was determined to relocate the Sikhs despite the National Commission for Minorities seeking a status quo on the issue. The minorities’ panel had vetoed the government’s relocation move on October 8.
“We are not sure how the Chief Minister can say they can take the land donated to us by the local chieftain 200 years ago. The High Court of Meghalaya had in February 2019 given a judgement in our favour, establishing our right over the piece of land,” Gurjit Singh, general secretary of the Harijan Panchayat Committee, 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 Shillong Municipal Board.
The 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.