Shillong Sikhs get courts on their side in times of trouble

KOLKATA: Courts have been a useful ally of the Shillong Sikhs as they fight against constant attempts made to drive them away. The Gora Line Sweepers Colony at Shillong’s Laitumkhra area is as old as the Punjabi Lane settlement of Dalit Sikhs.

Shillong Sikhs get courts on their side in times of trouble

editorial@tribune.com

Shubhadeep Choudhury

Tribune News Service

Kolkata, June 14

Courts have been a useful ally of the Shillong Sikhs as they fight against constant attempts made to drive them away.

The Gora Line Sweepers Colony at Shillong’s Laitumkhra area is as old as the Punjabi Lane settlement of Dalit Sikhs. Like the Punjabi Lane residents, the ancestors of the Gora Line families also came with the early British colonialists as sanitation workers.

They also settled down in the area after an arrangement was made with the local tribal chief. But unlike the Punjabi Lane Sikhs, their Gora Line counterparts are not threatened with eviction.

Punjabi Lane, being close to the city’s commercial hub Police Bazaar, is worth a fortune and this could be the main reason for the trouble faced by the Sikhs living there. However, Sikhs of the Gora Line colony too are not free from tension.

“We live in fear. It is our constant companion. We know that if clashes break out in Punjabi Lane, we will also become targets. Moreover, being Sikhs, we can be identified easily”, says Akash Singh, a resident of the Gora Line Sweepers’ Colony.

Sometime back, fire had broken out at the Gora Line colony leading to destruction of some houses. When the residents tried to rebuild the houses, government tried to put up obstacles and refused to restore the electric connections. The residents went to court and got a ruling in their favour. “The court took note of the electricity bills sent in the name of individual households that turned out to be a very crucial evidence in our favour”, said Kirpal Singh, a resident.

Similarly, the Punjabi Lane residents too got the court on its side in times of trouble. The series of court victories point out which side has got a just case. But the ethnicity-driven politics of the north-eastern region is not known for paying heed to anything in favour of “outsiders”.

Legal help

  • 1996: Portion of Punjabi Lane gets burnt and order is issued by local magistrate to stop reconstruction; residents approach HC, which stays magistrate's order 
  • 2001: Shillong Municipal Board CEO issues notices for demolition of ‘illegal structures’ in Punjabi Lane; families move Shillong Bench of Gauhati HC, which strikes down CEO’s order
  • Feb 2019: Meghalaya HC gives directive asking state government not to disturb Punjabi Lane Sikhs till the time civil courts are approached and titles are decided

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