SHILLONG, April 6 (PTI): Meghalaya deputy chief minister Prestone Tynsong has said the state government will hold a meeting with residents of Punjabi Lane here, which hit the headlines following group clashes in 2018, to discuss the proposed relocation of ‘illegal settlers’ of the locality.
The move has been initiated after the Meghalaya High Court had recently asked the government and Harijan Panchayat Committee (HPC), an organisation working for welfare of the residents of the area, to settle the matter.
“In all likelihood, we will meet with residents of Punjabi Lane and Harijan Panchayat Committee members next week to discuss the matter of their relocation,” Tynsong said on Tuesday.
The state government had in October last year taken over the land of Punjabi Lane locality and decided that ‘illegal settlers’ would be relocated from there.
The decision was taken based on a recommendation by a high-level committee (HLC) headed by Tynsong.
However, the Harijan Panchayat Committee had rejected the HLC’s recommendation submitted to the state government for relocating the people from there, claiming that it was ‘illegal’ and filed a petition in the high court.
A division bench of the high court, comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice W Diengdoh, had on March 9 said, “Since the private appellant submits that it is seeking to negotiate an alternative site for relocation and the matter is under consideration of the State, both the private appellant’s appeal and the State’s appeal should be adjourned to allow an attempt at settlement.”
Punjabi Lane in Them Iew Mawlong area of the Meghalaya capital is inhabited by people from Punjab, who were brought to Shillong around 200 years ago by the British to engage them in sanitary works.
“They have pleaded through the high court that the government should provide a place for relocation but right now I will not be able to tell you in details… let us meet first and once the meeting is over we will understand where and how we go about it,” the deputy CM told reporters on Tuesday.
Notably, an incident of assault in the area in May 2018 had resulted in the group clashes following which it was put under curfew for over a month.
Following the clashes, the Shillong Municipal Board had started an exercise to determine the legal residents of Punjabi Lane. There was a demand from various quarters to relocate the ethnic Punjabis from the area.
The HLC was set up by the NPP-led government in June 2018 to solve the decades-old issue regarding the relocation of the residents after the clashes.
According to a report submitted by the Shillong Municipal Board, a total of 184 families have been identified as legal settlers.
They included families of 128 employees of the civic body and 56 others who are working in various government departments.