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NCM seeks reports from Meghalaya government on relocation of Sikhs from Sweeper’s Colony

The HPC, which represents hundreds of poor families living in the Punjabi Lane that has now become prime property, expressed hope that the Commission will take this matter to its logical end.

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Shillong: The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has directed Meghalaya Chief Secretary Rebecca Suchiang to furnish a detailed report on the State government decision to shift the employees of Shillong Municipal Board and other departments from Sweeper’s Colony.

The NCM has also directed the State government to maintain the status quo on relocating the residents of Sweeper’s Colony from Iew Mawlong as directed by Meghalaya High Court, an NCM official said on Monday.

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In a statement issued here, the Harijan Panchayat Committee (HPC) Secretary, Gurjit Singh claimed the Commission has warned that if it does not receive the replies within the stipulated time, it will exercise the powers of civil courts conferred on it under Article 338 of the Constitution and issue summons to the officials to appear in person before the Commission or through a representative.

“The High Court had earlier passed orders for the maintenance of status quo and the matter is also under the consideration of the Supreme Court. But the Conrad Sangma-led government has ignored these and announced they will take possession of the 2.5 acres of land within a week,” Singh said.

The HPC, which represents hundreds of poor families living in the Punjabi Lane that has now become prime property, expressed hope that the Commission will take this matter to its logical end.

“It is the HPC’s duty to protect the lives and rights of the Sikhs of Shillong and we will do so at all costs and will not allow the High-Level Committee to have its illegal way,” Singh said, adding that the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, has also taken suo-moto cognizance of the taking up of the High-Level Committee report by the Meghalaya government and “the Commission has decided to investigate/inquire into the matter in pursuance of the powers conferred upon it under Article 338 of the Constitution of India.”

Chief Minister Sangma had assured that the government will follow “procedures to evict”.

“… the Urban Affairs department will examine all of those aspects and then the government will decide on how to move forward,” Sangma said, adding that “there are procedures to evict people and therefore, the government has to follow all procedures.”

Asked about the Meghalaya High Court’s order directing both the state government and the Harijan Panchayat Committee (HPC) to maintain status-quo with regards to the Sweeper Colony issue, the Chief Minister said that the state government is ready to challenge the court order.

“We will challenge the status quo. If there is a status quo that has been ordered by the high court then we will definitely challenge that status quo order,” he said.

For more than two decades, several indigenous Khasi civil society groups have demanded from Meghalaya to relocate Sikh residents, living there since British times, from Sweepers Lane as most of them are “illegal settlers.”

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