The Tribune – Shillong Sikhs to stay put only if ‘respected’

“We will stay in Meghalaya till we can live with our head held high,” says Bhanwar Nain Singh Didan, a rich Sikh businessman in Shillong.

Jupinderjit Singh, Tribune News Service

Shillong – Meghalaya – India, 21 June 2019. Besides Punjabi Lane, Sikhs live in Ghora Lane, an up-market place, and are settled in posh areas all over the state.

While Punjabi Lane Sikhs are in direct conflict with the locals over ownership rights, others, including Didan, have suffered losses in violence or tension triggered from Punjabi Lane. His office was smashed and his Renault Duster burnt by an angry mob last year.

Didan runs two hotels besides a construction company leased out to him by locals. He came to the state in 1960, more than a century after the Punjabi Lane residents had reached the state to take up employment as scavengers offered by the British.

“You can run a business here if a local is your partner. To outsiders, owning a property is not allowed. A trader’s licence is given only through locals,” he said.

Unlike the Punjabi Lane residents, whose street is called Haryan colony or a slum by the local media, many Sikhs have a rich lifestyle and have employed many.

After Home Minister James K Conrad assured Sikhs were safe in the state, Didan said it was more about respect. “We have helped the state grow with our investment in the past six decades. We employ locals but it hurts when they call us outsiders.

I will leave if we don’t get the respect we deserve.” His children are settled in the US. “The next generation doesn’t want to stay here,” he said.

Sunny Gill from Sherpur village near Khanna, Punjab, runs “Sardarji ka Dhaba” on the Shillong-Guwahati road. He had opened it two years ago but suffered badly after it was attacked last year. “I feel we are welcome only when some enterprise work is needed. Once we set it up, we become targets.”

Locals say…

Local mediapersons and government officials say it’s not about Sikhs versus Khasis. “Haryan Colony is overpopulated now as old settlers have invited many relatives over the years. The new settlers are illegal dwellers, besides being a civic problem as they have encroached upon public land and built houses in already congested street,” they said. – Shillong High Court upholds relief for residents of Punjabi Lane area

Sikh24 Editors

Shillong – Meghalaya – India, 20 June 2019. Taking up the petition against Shillong Municipal Board’s move of serving notices to the Sikhs living in the Punjabi Lane area, the Shillong High Court has sought a reply from the Meghalaya state government in the form of an affidavit. The High Court has also upheld the relief granted to the Shillong resident Sikhs till next orders.

It may be recalled here that the Shillong Municipal Board had served notices to the residents of the Punjabi lane area asking them to produce documents proving their legal right over the respective properties, they own in concerned area.

Sharing the development with media, DSGMC’s legal cell head Advocate Jagdeep Singh Kahlon informed that the petition was taken up for hearing on June 18. “During the hearing, the advocate general of Meghalaya government told the Court that neither the Meghalaya state government is harassing residents of the Punjabi lane area nor they are being evacuated from there,” he said.

He further informed that the Court has directed the Meghalaya state government to submit its reply in the form of an affidavit.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that the Shillong High Court also conducted hearing on the review petition filed by the Meghalaya government against relief granted to the residents of Punjabi lane area.

During the debate over this review petition, the Harijan Panchayat Committee, the City Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and the DSGMC told the Court that the Meghalaya state government doesn’t have any right over the land of Punjabi lane area as this land was allotted to these residents by the King around 200 years ago.

Shillong High Court Upholds Relief for Residents of Punjabi Lane Area

The Tribune – SGPC team asks Meghalaya government to stop Shillong Sikhs’ relocation

Ready to build 6-storey structure for Punjabi Lane residents

Shubhadeep Choudhury, Tribune News Service

Shillong – Meghalaya – India, 13 June 2019. A SGPC team from Amritsar today met Meghalaya Home Minister James Sangma here and urged him that attempts being made to “relocate” the Sikh residents of Shillong’s Punjabi Lane must be stopped.

In a memorandum, the SGPC said the Sikh residents of Punjabi Lane were being harassed for the past 20 years in the name of relocation and removal. A fresh attempt is underway, they said.

The SGPC said this would be gross injustice since the Sikhs were staying in this area for over 150 years, a fact which has been acknowledged by the Syiem (the tribal chieftain) of the area.

The SGPC urged Sangma to intervene and direct the administration to refrain from taking any “unlawful action”. The Sikh families, whose forefathers had come here with the British as sanitation workers, have been contributing to the betterment of Meghalaya with their hard work, it added.

Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma is visiting Delhi tomorrow and SGPC representatives will meet him there. The SGPC team said the Home Minister assured full protection to residents of Punjabi Lane. “If granted permission, the SGPC will build a six-storey building for the Punjabi Lane residents,” SGPC’s Bhagwant Singh said.

The Tribune – Ensure safety of Sikhs in Shillong: SGPC to Centre

The SGPC has appealed to the Union Home Ministry for ensuring the safety of the Sikhs in Shillong, Meghalaya.

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 11 June 2019. Following the threat by the banned organisation Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), Sikh body Harijan Panchayat Committee in Shillong has also approached Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma for the safety of the Sikh families who have been residing there for the past two centuries.

Ironically, the Shillong Municipal Board has also served a notice on the Sikh residents of Harijan Colony to establish their ownership rights or vacate the place. A few days back, HNLC activists had threatened the colony residents to face consequences if they dare to contest the municipal board’s notice in the court.

Gurdwara Bara Bazar management committee chief Gurjeet Singh said after the threat, tension had prevailed among the Sikh families as they were attacked earlier too.

The SGPC has decided to send a delegation to Shillong.

Gobind Singh Longowal, SGPC president, said an appeal had been made to Home Minister Amit Shah and the Home Secretary too. “The delegation will also meet Meghalaya CM.” – SGPC criticizes Shillong Municipal Board’s move of serving notices to residents of Punjabi Lane area

Sikh24 Editors

Shillong – Meghalaya – India, 02 June 2019. The SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal has strongly criticized the Shillong Municipal Board’s move of serving notices to the residents of the Punjabi Lane area. He has said that the Punjabis, especially the Sikhs, living in the Punjabi lane area of Shillong are being persecuted deliberately.

Longowal has said that the Meghalaya state government’s bid to usurp land of the Punjabis living in the Punjabi lane area manifests an oppressive intention which has made them feel alienated in Meghalaya.

He recalled that the SGPC had approached the Meghalaya state government and the Union government of India when the Punjabis were attacked by the locals in Shillong in May last year.

Appealing to the Meghalaya state government not to persecute the Punjabis living in Shillong, Longowal has demanded that the residents of the Punjabi lane area should be given proprietorship rights of their properties without any delay as they have been living there for the last two centuries.

It may be recalled here that the Shillong Municipal Board had served notices to the residents of the Punjabi lane area asking them to produce documents proving their legal right over the respective properties, they own in concerned area.

SGPC Criticizes Shillong Municipal Board’s Move of Serving Notices to Residents of Punjabi Lane Area

The Asian Age – Shillong’s Punjabi Lane residents get notice to prove legality of stay

Shillong – Meghalaya – India, 01 June 2019. The authorities have clamped prohibitory orders in Punjabi Lane area in Shillong and served notices to its residents directing them to furnish documents within a month to prove that they had settled in the area legally.

Punjabi Lane is inhabited by people from Punjab, who were brought to Shillong around 200 years ago by the British to work as cleaners and sweepers. An incident of assault in the area in May last year had resulted in group clashes following which it was put under curfew for over a month.

Following the direction of a High Level Committee of the state government, Shillong Municipal Board (SMB) officials served the notices to the people on Friday.

Prohibitory Orders under Section 144 CrPC were clamped in Punjabi Lane before the notices were served as there were intelligence inputs apprehending trouble in the area, a senior official of the East Khasi Hills district administration said.

The prohibitory orders will remain in place till further notice. “Most of the residents received the notice in person. Officials pasted the notices on the front doors of the houses which were under lock and key,” an SMB official told PTI.

In the notice, the residents of the Punjabi Lane were asked to furnish documents regarding their possession of either land or house and the period of their stay.

The notice said the information will be helpful for preparing both long and short term policies by the government for resolving the issue at Punjabi Lane.

Of the hundreds of people at Punjabi Lane, only 184 employees of the SMB and government departments and their families have earlier been identified as legal settlers, official sources said adding that there was a demand from various quarters to relocate the Punjabis from the area.

“They have been requested to come forward and furnish the information to the SMB office between June 3 and July 3,” SMB Chief Executive Officer S B Sohliya said.

The SMB will wait for a month and submit a report about the matter to the High Level Committee (HLC) constituted to find out a feasible solution for relocation of the people of Punjabi Lane, also known as Sweeper’s Colony.

As per the inventory survey conducted by the SMB last year, there are over 300 households in Punjabi Lane, Sohliya said.

The settlers had refused to cooperate with the authorities during the survey conducted last year and “this is their second and the last opportunity,” Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong, who is the head of the HLC, had said earlier this month.

The local Punjabi community in December last year had urged Governor Tathagata Roy to disband the HLC for allegedly issuing orders with intent to displace them.

On 29 May 2018, clashes erupted when a bus driver and his friend were attacked at the Punjabi Lane area and they received injuries. As rumours of the assaulted victims dying in hospital spread on social media, people attacked the settlers following which the entire area was put under curfew for over a month.

Following this, a delegation of the Punjab government visited the city and interacted with the settlers. The delegation members also met Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma.

However, the Meghalaya administration expressed unhappiness after the Punjab government sanctioned Rs 60 lakh as compensation to the community members who were affected by the violence.