Shillong Sikhs to relocate after four years of communal discord:Demand a plot&Rs 20L constructin aid
The residents of Shillong’s Harijan Colony, also called Punjabi Lane and Them Iew Mawlong, have settled to relocate themselves conditionally four years after a communal eruption associated with an expulsion drive in 2018. One of the reasons behind the violence was a bid to shift the colony and make room for a commercial complex. The HPC claims that the Dalit Sikhs – some of whom are employed with the Shillong Municipal Board – were settled nearly 200 years ago by the British authorities after the local chieftain gifted them a suitable plot. The Conrad Sangma government had then constituted a high-level committee to find a solution to the decades-old land dispute. The majority of residents of the colony housing 342 families are Dalits and Mazhabhi Sikhs. The colony is spread across 3.33 acres . For the relocation, all 342 families are accommodated in the same location, with 200 sq. m. of area per family in Meghalaya’s capital, Meghalaya’s European Ward. In October last year, the Meghalaya government announced that it would take proprietorship of the disputed land in Shillong’s Them lew Mawlong area, based on the commendations of the committee. However, the relocation met intense resentment from the Harijan Panchayat Committee. The Harijan Panchayat Committee rather specified in its counter-proposal that “the settlers would prefer a mere allotment of an individual plot of land measuring at least 200 square meters… and an amount of Rs 20 lakh as constructing cost of each house with all essential amenities” The Meghalaya Transfer of Land (Regulation) Act, 1971, excludes the European Ward from the Act, allowing non-tribal people to purchase property, including land if a competent authority approves the transfer. Non-tribal people are not permitted to purchase land in nearby areas. The other conditions include not shifting a Gurdwara Sahib, a church, two temples, a Valmiki Ashram and the Guru Nanak School from the area, letting some 60 community shopkeepers carry on with their business and paying ₹20 lakh to each family to facilitate the relocation. “We are ready to move. If they decide to give us the land, we are ready to move. We had said that 200 sq m should be given to every family and Rs 20 lakh as construction cost,” Gurjit Singh, secretary of the Harijan Panchayat Committee, said Wednesday. Speaking to reporters two days earlier, Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong had talked about the Harijan Panchayat Committee’s decision to submit a memorandum to the government, agreeing to relocate. “We have instructed the Urban Affairs Department to prepare the proposals for submitting to the HPC. The government is identifying 2-3 locations for the relocation,” Tynsong reportedly said following a meeting with Gurjit Singh. After a meeting with State government representatives on Monday, HPC chairman Gurjit Singh said, “We realized that we cannot fight the government forever. We have never been against relocation and we are ready to move if the government fulfills our demands.” The next meeting is scheduled before or on May 15.