A day before the High-Level Committee (HLC) under Meghalaya Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong is to meet, the Harijan Panchayat Committee, spearheading the fight against Meghalaya government’s attempt to evict Sikh residents of state capital Shillong’s Punjabi Lane area from their homes, on Wednesday issued a statement accusing the HLC of being “partisan” and said no way they would accept its “decision”.
The HLC was constituted by the state government in June last year to look into the issue of relocating the residents of Punjabi Lane after an incident of assault in the area resulted in violent group clashes between Sikhs and local Khasis.
In a statement, the Harijan Panchayat Committee also categorically rejected what it called the "polite threat" of the Deputy Chief Minister Tynsong.
Tynsong recently asked the Sikh settlers to shift on their own from Punjabi Lane, which is also known as Sweeper’s Colony.
On May 31, the Shillong Municipal Board issued notice to the residents – who claim living in the area for several generations (their ancestors having been brought to the picturesque hill town by the British to work as sweepers) – asking them to provide documents with regard to their possession of land or buildings in Punjabi Lane, located at a stone’s throw distance of Shillong’s prime commercial area Police Bazaar.
Today was the last day of the submission of documents but none from Punjabi Lane complied with the SMB directive.
The land, having been granted to a group of people by the then tribal chief more than one and a half century back, it is foolish on the part of SMB and other official agencies to ask for proof of individual ownership of the plots and ramshackle structures used by the Sikhs as residences, says Gurjit Singh, chief of the Harijan Panchayat Committee.
The Harijan Panchayat Committee (HPC) statement issued today said HPC and the City Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee “categorically reject the government’s High-Level Committee which has been working for the last one year in a partisan manner without taking the viewpoint of the affected people of the Punjabi lane”.
“We reject the High-Level Committee and will reject all the decisions that the HLC takes tomorrow or in future. The HLC has no locus standi and is working only to evict the poor Sikh residents of Punjabi colony who are living here for the last 200 years and who have immensely served the people of the state”, the statement added.
With the SMB notice having failed to evoke any response from the Sikh residents of Punjabi Lane, Tynsong has convened a meeting of the HLC tomorrow to decide on the next course of action.