A delegation of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) met Governor Satya Pal Malik here today over the government’s intent to relocate the residents of Punjabi Lane/Sweepers Colony at Them Iewmawlong.
Speaking to reporters after meeting the Governor, the president of the DSGMC and a figure in the Shiromani Akali Dal political party, Manjinder Singh Sirsa, alleged that there is something amiss in the refusal of the state government to share a copy of the high-level committee (HLC) report or the tripartite agreement which was made with the Syiem of Mylliem for the land in question.
“Why are they hiding? There is something fishy, that is the reason they are hiding,” Sirsa said.
The HLC had recommended to the state government that the genuine Shillong Municipal Board (SMB) employees and those of other government departments be resettled elsewhere. The Urban Affairs Department has also been asked to find homes for the “illegal settlers” there.
The area was the focus of violent riots in 2018 following a disturbance between residents and members of the Khasi community. Pressure groups have since been pushing the government to remove the Sikhs, whose ancestors were brought to the place by the British as sanitation workers, living there to another location. However, other groups suspect that, with the land in question being at the heart of Shillong, vested interests are trying to get their hands on it for monetary gain.
When it was pointed out to Sirsa that the residents of Sweepers Colony were going to be provided alternate accommodation, he said that relocation can be based on mutual understanding but should not be forced.
“It cannot be that a government has passed a cabinet order and the Chief Minister says that the residents will be evicted in one week. This is not fair,” Sirsa said, adding that the residents will again raise the issue with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and move the “appropriate court” once again.
The DSGMC rued the fact that the government, or the HLC, did not take the view of the Sweepers Colony residents before arriving at its decision.
“This cannot be a one-sided order… They didn’t even call them for a meeting,” he stated, further claiming that the government wants to communalise the situation so as to benefit at the upcoming by-elections in Meghalaya.
“Being a Chief Minister, you are duty bound to save the minorities. The minority might have only 400 votes but, as a Chief Minister, you are constitutionally bound to protect them,” he added.
Meanwhile, secretary of the Harijan Panchayat Committee (which represents the Sikhs of Sweepers Colony), Gurjit Singh, said that the statements made by Chief Minister Conrad Sangma are wrong and against the minority community.
He also said that the committee was never invited to discuss the issue with the HLC.
Countering the statement of Sangma that nobody had come forward with any documentation despite being given multiple opportunities to prove their claims, Gurjit Singh said, “We never got any letter from the government and, if issued, tell us the date when it was done.”