Maintaining pressure on Meghalaya government to revoke its decision to relocate Dalit Sikhs Residents of Mavlong area of ShillongA delegation of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) on Thursday requested the intervention of the Meghalaya Governor Satya Pal Malik in this matter.
DSGMC president Manjinder Singh Sirsa said, “We shared our concerns and they assured us that no injustice will be done and residents will not be illegally evicted.” Indian Express.
A four-member team led by Sirsa – who is also the national spokesperson of the Shiromani Akali Dal – met Malik at his official residence in Shillong earlier on Thursday afternoon. “He said that he has already taken up the matter with Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma as well,” Sirsa said. They said they could not meet the chief minister as he was out of town.
DSGMC has already taken a stay in this matter and we are ready to fight any legal battle to protect the rights of the people living there for decades.@TimesNow @years @Punjab Kesari @thetribunechd https://t.co/JlIuyX79eX pic.twitter.com/efHpYP5WMj
— Manjinder Singh Sirsa (@mssirsa) 14 October 2021
The Sangma-led cabinet’s October 7 decision to relocate the Sikh community from the area, also known as Punjabi Lane, based on recommendations made by a high-level committee, was opposed by residents who claimed that they have been living in the area since the 1850s, after being brought in by the British to work as scavengers and sweepers in the area.
While the government claims that the land belongs to the Department of Urban Affairs, the Sikhs say that the land was “gifted” to them in the 1850s by the Siem (chief) of Hima Mailim – one of the chiefs of the Khasi Hills.
The land dispute has been going on for decades, with sections of society and political organizations in Meghalaya demanding relocation of residents to some other area. It turned violent in May 2018, leading to clashes between local Khasi and Sikhs of the area, following which a high-level committee was formed to settle it.
While Sikh groups have called the move “illegal”, “unjust” and “unconstitutional”, with leaders saying they will take up the matter with Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the Meghalaya government has so far stuck to its decision. On Monday, Deputy Chief Minister Preston Tynsong had told The Indian Express that he had “followed due diligence” on the issue.
Sirsa said that since the status quo was ordered by the Meghalaya High Court on April 9, 2021 based on a petition filed by Sikh groups in 2018, the high-level committee had no power to take such a decision. “Residents cannot be shifted without following due process,” he said.
Malik, in a representation to the DSGMC – an autonomous organization that manages gurdwaras, hospitals, educational institutions and the welfare of Sikhs – that the Meghalaya government’s decision to “take possession” of the land is an action towards “instigating conflict” “Spiral” can cause violent disturbance.”
It also said that the Meghalaya government is asking the Department of Urban Affairs to come out with a rehabilitation plan, which could exhort residents, “without giving them an opportunity to say anything.”
“The unilateral decision of the government in the name of illegal settlers is highly unconstitutional and is not stopping them from proceeding in spite of the directions of the Hon’ble High Court,” it said.
Gurjit Singh, president of the Harijan Panchayat Samiti, which represents members of the Sikh Dalit community in Shillong, said he felt “more confident” after the DSGMC’s meeting with Malik. “We hope the government will reconsider its decision,” he said.