Meghalaya Government Defends Eviction Of Dalit Sikhs From Punjabi Lane After Claiming Ownership

Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma (@sangmaconrad/Twitter)

Defending the controversial notice presented to Dalit Sikh residents in Meghalaya to show documents establishing them as owners of the land or the structure, the government of Christian majority state has said that the locality known as Punjabi lane is the property of Shillong Municipal Board (SMB), reports The Hindu.

The locality also known as Sweepers’ Lane or Them ïew Mawlong was rocked by communal violence last year and paramilitary forces were deployed in the area. So strong is the sentiment against the Dalit Sikhs, that during the Assembly election the winning candidate from the North Shillong constituency, Adelbert Nongrum allegedly "promised to evict" them from the area.

The Dalit Sikhs were brought to the region by British for manual scavenging work after Northeast fell to their control. While the Meghalaya government said that the land belonged to the SMB since an agreement in 1954 with the local tribal chieftain. The residents of Punjabi Lane claim that the local Syiem (head) of Mylliem (village) had given them the piece of land in 1863 to settle there permanently after an agreement between the Raja of Mylliem and the British administration was reached.

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However, in 1970s, Shillong district administration had identified the Punjabi Lane as an illegal slum colony and issued an eviction order. Several Khasi outfits, a community predominantly of Christian faith, campaigned for eviction of Dalit Sikhs from the area. Parallel, the curb on manual scavenging led to the loss of jobs for the residents. The residents allege that the administration and local politicians want them to be shifted to the outskirts of Shillong so that the land could be used for commercial purposes.

Deputy chief minister Tynsong heads the High-Level Committee (HLC) the government had formed for relocating the residents. In May, the HLC decided to give the residents a month’s time to prove they were legal residents. It instructed the SMB to create “an inventory of properties” belonging to the residents who foiled an attempt to conduct the survey, leading to the notice.

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