State

Harijan panel poses queries to MDA govt, asserts to hold on till last breath

Shillong,  Nov 8: The Harijan Panchayat Committee (HPC) has said the MDA government is adopting double standard as far as Harijan Colony is concerned.

In a letter to Chief Minister Conrad Sangma on Monday, the secretary of HPC, Gurjit Singh said it is concerned over state government offering an olive branch in one hand by publicly inviting them for talks for an amicable solution and on the other hand wielding the axe by talking about unilateral eviction of the people.

“This is a litmus test for the honesty, justice and integrity of the Meghalaya government. It is also the test of our tenacity and determination to fight back and save our homes. We are committed to holding on till our last breath and Sikh history bears testimony to our determination,” Singh said.

The HPC secretary, while appreciating the change of heart in the public statement of the CM’s readiness to talk to Shillong Sikhs, however, has sought for a formal agenda-based invitation from the chief minister.

Not a single call from HLC

“We never received an invitation from the High Level Committee (HLC) calling us for discussion in the last three and a half years. On the contrary, we have consistently been given veiled threats of forcible eviction. May I mention that not once in the last three years since the trouble in 2018, have you invited us for talks or even affirmatively responded to our problems and concerns? Your statement and that of your Deputy that HLC did not receive any representation or objections from the affected people is far from true,” said Singh.

He also challenged the government to produce names and details of the 40 families who have been allotted accommodation by the government, as stated by the chief minister.

“Will you be kind enough to provide to the members of the public, the details of the names, dates and copies of the allotment of quarters to the 40 families on the recommendation of the HLC report submitted on September 28,” Singh said.

Tripartite agreement not disclosed

Criticising the government for not disclosing the content of the tripartite agreement reached between the government, the Acting Syiem of Hima Mylliem and the Urban Affairs department, Singh alleged that the government is hiding facts.

“What is so sacrosanct that it is not being made available even through RTI? Is it that the 31 March 2020 date is an ex-post facto afterthought to circumvent contempt of court? Is it that it has signed the agreement with the Acting Syiem while he cannot legally do it? Is it also not true that the young Acting Syiem has been put under pressure to execute the document?”

Regarding the call of the chief minister to abide by the law and  court orders, Singh said the government should do well to honour “the order of the High Court of Meghalaya  on  February 15, 2019, wherein Justice SR Sen had directed not to disturb the residents of the area without civil proceedings regarding the title of land and that of Justice More ordering status-quo on  April 9, 2021 and the stay orders of the National Commission for Minorities and that of the National Human Rights Commission.”

Singh also rejected the step by step approach of the government and said that this is a premeditated step involving shifting government offices and government employees to an unknown designated area, “and then having segregated us, forcing us into submission.”

Singh also wanted to know why the government is eyeing only their 2.5 acres of land as this is clear discrimination against Sikhs and pointed out that there are so many other occupancy untouched by the government.

‘We are people of this land’

“Our benign sentiments are attached to our humble abode, surroundings and people living here. Our children were born and brought up here. We have all been educated here. Our fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers lived, married and died here. For the last nearly two centuries, because of the love of the people and the atmosphere of tolerance, we have never thought of returning to Punjab. By all accounts, we are people of this land. We speak the local language; celebrate local customs and festivals with full pomp and glory. The Sikh community here has always maintained amicable relations with all local people”, Singh said.

He also issued a stern warning regarding the proposed demolition of religious places in the Punjabi lane area.

“As a responsible citizen, I impress upon your government that it should not budge on the path of hurting the religious sentiments of the people by destroying the Gurdwara, the Hindu temple, the Church and the school in the name of Guru Nanak in the Punjabi lane at Bara Bazar.”

“Let it be clear to all that we are not a handful of disgruntled elements but Sikhs, Hindus and Christians are on the same platform, united to fight the viciousness of the government to deprive us of our homes, our religious places and we all have resolved to continue our peaceful, social and legal struggle to protect our rights,” Singh said.

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