Shillong Sikhs relieved as Minorities Commission vetoes Meghalaya’s move to relocate them

Express News Service

GUWAHATI: The Sikhs of Shillong are relieved that the National Commission for Minorities has vetoed the Meghalaya government’s decision to relocate the residents of the hill station’s Harijan Colony.

The Commission directed the government to maintain the status quo in the matter as ordered by the High Court of Meghalaya twice earlier and furnish a detailed report.

The Commission’s directive was based on suo motu cognisance of media reports on the government’s decision to shift the employees of Shillong Municipal Board and other departments from Harijan Colony and find an alternative location for the “illegal settlers”.

“The High Court had passed orders for the maintenance of status quo. The matter is also under the consideration of the Supreme Court. But, the Conrad Sangma-led government ignored these and announced it will take possession of the 2.5 acres of land within a week,” said Gurjit Singh, who is the secretary of Harijan Panchayat Committee (HPC).

He said the Commission directed the state government to furnish the “full records” on October 15. He also said that taking cognisance of the report of the government-appointed High-Level Committee, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes decided to probe the matter.

The Scheduled Castes Commission, Singh said, also sought detailed information from the government, failing which its representatives would be summoned.

The government’s decision on the relocation of the employees and the settlers was based on the High-Level Committee’s report.

Some 250 Sikh families have been settled at Harijan Colony, also known as Punjabi Lane, for over 200 years. It is a prime location.

The HPC is hopeful the Commission will take the matter to its logical end.

“We are grateful to the National Commission for Minorities, National Commission for Scheduled Castes, Punjab government and Sikh bodies such as Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Shiromani Akali Dal, United Sikhs and all other volunteers, activists, and leaders who have stood by us in this hour of great difficulty when we struggle to save our dwellings and livelihood,” Singh said.

Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, who visited Shillong twice since 2018 when the government initiated the move to “evict” the residents, has assured the Sikh leaders that he would take up the matter with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and the Meghalaya CM.