We are prepared for legal challenge by settlers, says Deputy CM Prestone Tynsong
The Meghalaya government has taken possession of a colony of Mazhabi or Dalit Sikhs in the State capital Shillong, four years after a communal flare-up led to a move to evict them.
The State’s Urban Affairs Ministry on Friday accepted the handover of the controversial patch of land measuring 12,444.13 sq. metres. The State government had earlier this year executed a tripartite lease deed for the land with the Syiem (king-like chieftain) of Mylliem and the Shillong Municipal Board for taking over the land where the Harijan Colony or Punjabi Lane stands.
Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong, also the chairman of the High-Level Committee on the Harijan Colony issue, said the State Cabinet will discuss the impact of the government’s move.
“The settlers of the colony should not think we are against them. We are not throwing them out but want them to be relocated at a proper place,” he said, claiming the colony residents had refused to cooperate when the committee tried to prepare an inventory of the families and their possession thrice.
He said the Harijan Colony is “worse than a slum and not fit for human habitation” while outlining the government’s plan to beautify the area.
Mr Tynsong also said the government would defend the takeover of the colony if the settlers challenge their relocation in court.
The Harijan Panchayat Committee claimed the land was gifted to them by the Syiem of Mylliem 200 years ago and the government had no right to snatch it from some 350 Sikh families living there.
“How can the government take the step when the case of our colony is pending in the High Court of Meghalaya and the Supreme Court? We will fight this out,” colony leader Gurjit Singh said.
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