NEW DELHI | June 14, 2019: (PTI)
After the Shiromani Akali Dal’s intervention, the Meghalaya government Thursday submitted its report to the Ministry of Home Affairs “assuring the safety” of Punjabi settlers in Shillong, said party leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Thursday held a meeting on the issues related to settlers of Punjabi Lane in the capital of Meghalaya, which was attended by the state Chief Secretary PS Thangkhiew and leaders of Akali Dal.
“The report submitted to the Home Ministry by the Meghalaya Government assured the safety and security of Sikhs and Punjabis especially those living in Punjabi Lane area of Shillong,” Sirsa said.
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. The authorities have served notices to the residents of Punjabi Lane directing them to furnish documents by July 3 to prove that they had settled in the area legally.
There was a demand from various quarters to relocate the Punjabis from the area.
After Sirsa, a SAD leader from Delhi, sought the intervention of Union Home Minister, Amit Shah following a threat by banned militant organisation Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) to the “illegal” settlers at Punjabi Lane, the MHA issued summons to the Meghalaya government.
The state police, however, has downplayed the threat. Meanwhile, the HNLC expressed its support to the state government for its move to identify illegal settlers in the area, also known as Thew Iew Mawlong.
Of the hundreds of people at Punjabi Lane, 184 are employees of the Shillong Municipal Board and other government departments. Their families have earlier been identified as legal settlers, offcial sources said.
The Harijan Panchayat Committee, an organisation of the settlers, has sought protection from Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma.
On May 29, 2018, clashes erupted when a bus driver and his friend were allegedly attacked and injured at the Punjabi Lane area.
As rumours of the assaulted victims dying in hospital spread on social media, people attacked the Punjabi 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 Sangma.
The Meghalaya administration expressed unhappiness over the Punjab government sanctioning Rs 60 lakh as compensation to the community members who were affected by the violence.
The government constituted high-level committee which has lately directed the municipal board to issue notices to the settlers to verify if they are legal settlers.