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Minorities commission against re-locating Shillong’s Sikhs

By Newsd
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Shillong: National Commission for Minorities member Manjit Singh Rai on Wednesday described as unfeasible the move of the Meghalaya government to re-locate the Sikh inhabitants from the Sweepers Lane here.

Sweepers Lane, known to the local people as Them Metor, is located in the commercial area of Shillong near Iewduh — one of the busiest markets in the northeast.

Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong, however, said the government’s intention is clear as it wants to find a solution and resolve this issue permanently in the best interest of all concerned.

Rai, who reviewed the law and order situation here after violence erupted between the indigenous Khasi and Sikh communities with senior government officials, including state police Chief Swaraj Bir Singh, expressed satisfaction with the state police ensuring security to the Sikhs in the state.

He also called on Chief Minister Conrad Sangma after assessing the ground situation in Sweepers Lane colony.

The situation is normal now. I will be submitting my report before the Commission on the situation in Shillong. However, the move to re-locate Sikhs from Sweepers Lane is not feasible since they have lived there for more than 150 years, the minorities commission member said.

Meanwhile, the government-constituted high-level committee headed by Deputy Chief Minister Tynsong met for the first time on Wednesday to find a permanent solution to the long-pending issue of relocating Sikhs communities at Sweepers Lane.

We (committee) have asked all concerned departments to submit documents on the status of the Sweepers Lane as of today (Wednesday). The committee will then study the various documents to have a clear understanding of the issue. We will then recommend to the government on the steps which need to be taken to address the grievances of all concerned, he said.

For more than two decades, several indigenous Khasi civil society groups have demanded the relocation of the Sikh inhabitants, living there since British times, from Sweepers Lane as most of them are illegal settlers.

Noting that the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance government is serious about resolving the long-pending demands of various groups, Tynsong said: The formation of this committee is not to buy time or killing time on the matter. The previous government has not been able to address the issue but the present government is committed to reach a permanent solution.

The terms of reference of the high-level committee is to examine all relevant records and documents and recommend feasible solution on the issue. It shall submit its recommendations to the government at the earliest.

The issue has been pending for many years and the governments in the past have not been able to resolve the matter.

On Tuesday, a delegation of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee from Amritsar, led by Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh, opposed the move of the Meghalaya government to re-locate the Sikhs from Sweepers Lane to other parts of the city.

Leader of Opposition in the state assembly Mukul Sangma said the government has failed to sustain peace in the state and demanded setting up of a judicial inquiry into the issue of shifting of the Sikh inhabitants.