Sandeep Singh: Threats Loom Over Punjabi Lane As Meghalaya Government Considers Shillong Sikhs New Relocation Demands
"We should be given proper land ownership rights where our people can live freely"
April 29, 2022 | 2.5 min. read | Original Reporting
The Sikhs of Shillong, amidst a lengthy land dispute with the Meghalaya government, have agreed to relocate from Punjabi Lane if specific conditions are met first. The local authorities have attempted to force out the Sikhs that lived in the colony before, which is 3.3 acres of prime real estate in Shillong, with efforts intensifying late last year, as reported by Baaz in November of 2021.
On April 25, 2022, a group of Sikhs led by Gurjeet Singh, Chairman of the Harijan Panchayat Colony (HPC), informed the government about the community’s new position and demands. They had been refusing to relocate at all before this, and have been engaged in an ongoing legal battle to stop the government eviction.
A copy of the Sikh HPC resolution, which has been reviewed by Baaz, shows they have demanded they be given land and money to build new houses in return for leaving Punjabi Lane.
According to the resolution, the 342 families of Punjabi Lane want 200 square meters for each of the 218 landholders that would be impacted by forced relocation. They have also demanded 20 lakh rupees for the construction of homes. The land is to be provided all in one place so that the community can remain together.
According to Gurjeet Singh, Punjabi Lane residents have met Deputy CM Prestone Tynsong and other officials in which both parties agreed to negotiate the removal. After those discussions, Gurjeet Singh held a meeting with residents of the colony on April 17 and 20, 2022, where they agreed on a proposal of demands.
As the government now considers the resolution, local leaders and the local student union have warned the government to reject the demands, with some even threatening violence if the Sikh position is accepted.
In 2018, riots had broken out between the local Khasi people and the Sikhs. Since then the Central Reserve Police Force has been deployed in the colony.
North Shillong MLA, Adelbert Nongrum, told the Shillong Times “that government should relocate only employees of Shillong Municipal Board (SMB) and other government departments, and evict those who are illegally settling in Them lew Mawlong.”
Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) president Lambok Marngar warned the state government about accepting the demands, suggesting other actions can be taken by the KSU. KSU general secretary Donald Thabah went one step further and claimed that the acceptance of the demands will lead to mayhem in the city.
However, even amongst the pushback, Sikhs are hopeful and maintain high expectations.
Sunny Singh, a Sikh from the area is happy with the relocation demands of HPC.
“It is tough to live in Punjabi Lane as we are locked in a legal battle. Secondly, we are not allowed any construction. Apart from this, we can’t even easily get a tap water connection.”
“We should be given proper land ownership rights where our people can live freely,” he adds.
Sandeep Singh hails from Machhiwara, Punjab. As an independent journalist, he has worked with many prominent Indian news organizations. Sandeep has been following the farmer’s protest in Punjab since its onset and traveled with them to Delhi. You can follow Sandeep on Twitter @Punyaab
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