Tribune News Service
Kolkata, January 10
Hynniewtrep Youth Council (HYC), a youth organisation of Meghalaya which claims to represent the interest of the local Khasi tribe, has warned Punjab government against interfering in the issue of relocation of Dalit Sikhs living in Meghalaya capital Shillong’s Harijan Colony.
In a statement issued in Shillong, HYC president Robertjune Kharjahrin warned of serious repercussions if “outside agencies” try to give the proposed relocation a communal colour. Kharjahrin clarified that by “outside agencies” he meant Punjab government primarily.
State government of Punjab had strongly protested when various Khasi interest groups – ranging from the insurgent group HNLC to the state government run by a coalition that includes BJP – tried to arm-twist the Dalit Sikhs living in Harijan Colony to vacate the area.
The stand taken by Punjab government to defend the hapless residents of Harijan Colony has not gone down well with the HYC and other Khasi parochial organisations which proliferate in Meghalaya.
HYC said relocation of Harijan Colony residents should be viewed from the developmental perspective. “We are asking the outside agencies one last time to refrain from making it a communal issue. Adding fuel to the fire may once again lead to agitations and law and order problems,” the statement, issued by Kharjahrin at Shillong on Sunday, said.
Kharjahrin demanded that only state government employees among the Harijan Colony residents should be relocated and the other “illegal residents” evicted.
“There is no harm if the legitimate employees are shifted to state government quarters. But I don’t know how accommodation can be provided to Grade 4 employees when the government has not been able to do so for Grade 1 & 2 employees,” the statement quoted the HYC president as having said.
According to HYC, there were no records to establish that the Dalit Sikh residents of Harijan Colony were owners of their residences.
“The area can be redeveloped for a shopping mall, or a parking lot or a warehouse for storing coal. Utilising the area commercially can sustain the poor people and farmers,” Kharjahrin said.
Dalit Sikhs residents of Punjabi Lane claim living in the area for several generations as their forefathers were brought to the hill town by the British for working as sweepers.
An incident of assault in the area in 2018 had resulted in group clashes following which the neighbourhood was put under curfew for over a month.