The National Commission for Minorities on Monday asked the Meghalaya government not to take any steps to relocate Sikhs belonging to the Scheduled Caste community who are living in Shillong’s Harijan Colony, reported The New Indian Express.
The minorities panel also asked the state government to submit a detailed report on the matter on October 15.
The panel sent the notice after taking note of media reports on the state government’s decision to relocate the employees of Shillong Municipal Board and other departments from Harijan Colony to another part of the city.
The government had also decided to find another location for other residents of the area.
On October 5, Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma had said that his government will take possession of the land in the Harijan Colony, also known as Sweepers’ Lane and Punjabi Lane, within a week by following “due procedures”, reported The Hindu.
Only 350 families residing in the colony have members who are employed at the municipal board, according to The Hindu. Therefore, the residents have opposed the government’s decision.
Sangma’s decision came after a report of a state government-appointed High-Level Committee. The panel was formed in June 2018 to look into the demand of the members of Khasi outfits for relocating the Sikhs following violence in the area.
The violence followed an argument between a Khasi bus driver and a Sikh resident.
On Monday, Harijan Panchayat Committee secretary Gurjit Singh, who is opposing the government’s decision, said that the High Court too had passed an order in April to maintain status quo and the matter was also under the Supreme Court’s consideration.
“But the Conrad Sangma-led government ignored these and announced it will take possession of the 2.5 acres of land within a week,” he said.
Besides the National Commission for Minorities, the National Scheduled Castes Commission has also sought a detailed report on the matter. The notice was sent to senior police officials of the state as well as the chief secretary, reported The Tribune.
Vijay Sampla, the chairperson of the National Scheduled Castes Commission, warned the authorities that they will be summoned if they fail to submit the details.
Sangma had claimed that the state government and the Shillong Municipal Board have signed a tripartite agreement to take possession of the land from the Syiem of Mylliem. Syiem is the customary head of a Khasi tribal administrative area.
“We are not sure how the chief minister said they [government] can take the land donated to us by the Syiem of Mylliem 200 years ago,” the Harijan Panchayat Committee secretary told The Hindu on October 8. “In February 2019, the High Court of Meghalaya gave a judgement in our favour, establishing our right over the piece of land.”
On October 8, Singh had said that the government has not provided them the high-level committee’s report according to a court order. He also said that the residents of the colony had not been informed about the the government’s agreement with the Syiem and the Shillong Municipal Board.
“We are talking to our lawyers to challenge the government’s move,” Singh said on October 8. “We are also refreshing our litigation in the Supreme Court on this issue.”
Meanwhile on Sunday, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa had criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party-led state government’s decision to evict the Sikhs, reported The Times of India.
“The main aim of the Meghalaya government is to get the prime land worth several crores vacated by hook or crook and hand it over to land mafia,” he alleged.
Randhawa had led a delegation to Shillong in 2018 following the violence.