Members of the Dalit Sikh community living in Shillong’s Harijan Colony said on Monday that they will challenge the state government’s decision to relocate them to another place, The Indian Express reported.

Gurjit Singh, the president of Harijan Panchayat Committee, said Sikhs would rather die in their homes than be evicted.

“Let it be known to all concerned that this is going to be a fight for survival and habitat and we will spare no effort to win this battle of honour, dignity and legitimate rights,” he added.

In October, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma had announced that his government will take possession of the land in the Harijan Colony, also known as Sweepers’ Lane and Punjabi Lane, by following “due procedures”.

The Meghalaya government’s decision was based on a report from a committee formed in 2018 to look into the demand of Khasi outfits to relocate Sikhs following violence in the area. The violence had erupted after an argument between a Khasi bus driver and a Sikh resident.

The state government and the Shillong Municipal Board had signed an agreement to take over the land from the Syiem of Mylliem. Syiem is the customary head of a Khasi tribal administrative area. The government formally acquired the land on Friday.

As Sikhs protested the takeover of land and called the move illegal, the Meghalaya chief minister said his government was ready to talk to them to find a solution to the dispute, The Times of India reported.

Sangma added that 40 families had already been relocated and more would be moved out of the area soon.

“The entire process will be done in a phase-wise manner,” Sangma said. “The first phase includes land ownership, which has been done. The second phase will include shifting of municipal offices, while government employees, municipal or others, will be shifted to designated locations in the third phase.”

In the final phase, the government will ask others to move. “We will find an amicable manner in which we will be able to ask the others to relocate,” the chief minister added.