Behind Shillong Clashes, A Long-Running Tension Over A Piece Of Land


Shillong clashes: The army has been called in and is on standby in case violence flares up again (PTI)

Shillong:  Sanjana, the descendant of a Punjabi family who migrated to Meghalaya over a hundred years ago during the time of the British Raj, has been living in the state capital Shillong for 34 years. The woman who was born in his hilly town says the congested Punjabi Lane in the heart of Shillong, where clashes broke out last week, is her home.

People of the Khasi tribe in Meghalaya, however, appear to take the locality as a government-given settlement for migrants who are not tribals. There are allegations that some locals including politicians want the residents of the settlement to be relocated elsewhere anyhow.

A fight between some Khasi boys and residents of Punjabi Lane last week only lit the fuse that eventually ignited the dormant tension into a full-blown confrontation and the subsequent clashes with the police and paramilitary forces.

By midnight on Saturday last, some 200 residents of Punjabi Lane left their homes and took shelter at an army cantonment nearby. They have since returned home as the situation has improved now.

“We were born here, settled here. We consider Meghalaya as our land, although we are from Punjab. We never thought they want us to leave,” says Sanjana.
 

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The clashes raises questions on a long-running tension between the Khasi tribe and people who are living on that piece of land that they call their home.

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma has alleged that some people have been “sponsoring” the clashes, though he admitted that the clashes were certainly linked to discontentment over the land tussle. He denied the matter was communal.

“There are people who are funding this particular agitation. The problem is localised only to a particular patch of land. It happens to be that two communities are involved. But it’s not a communal thing,” Mr Sangma told NDTV.

The clashes, however, raises questions on a long-running tension between the Khasi tribe and people who are living on that piece of land that they call their home.

“This incident happened because three Khasi boys were beaten up. This is not the first time that such a thing has happened. People have been holding their anger for a decade and this time it exploded,” said Lambokstarwell Margar, president of the Khasi Students’ Union, an organisation that has been spearheading campaigns inimical to migrants back from the 1980s.

Curfew was relaxed for a few hours on Monday.
 

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The Indian Army was called in to take control and is on standby in case the situation flares up again

A delegation from the Shiromani Akali Dal from New Delhi visited the locality on Sunday, asking both sides to help bring peace. A Punjab government delegation also reached Shillong on Monday.

The Indian Army was called in to take control and is on standby in case the situation flares up again. For now it appears that the capital of Meghalaya, popular with tourists and connected by a smooth highway just 110 kilometres from Guwahati airport in Assam, has calmed after the intense clashes last week.

The curfew imposed across Shillong on Monday was lifted today at 5 am from some parts of the city, while indefinite curfew continues in sensitive areas.

The Meghalaya government has formed a cabinet sub-committee to look into the possibility of relocating the “Sweeper Colony”. “The Committee shall examine all relevant records and documents relating to the relocation of the Sweeper Colony, Sweeper Lane, Mawlong Haat… The Committee shall recommend practically feasible solution(s) for relocation of the said Sweeper Colony,” the order issues on Monday said.





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