MHA summons Meghalaya govt on Punjabi Lane settlers issue

Shillong, Jun 12: Following a complaint from the Shiromani Akali Dal, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has called the Meghalaya government for a meeting on Thursday on the issue related to the settlers of Punjabi Lane here, Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong said Wednesday.
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.
Official sources said there was a demand from various quarters to relocate the Punjabis from the area.
“State Chief Secretary PS Thangkhiew will attend the meeting with the MHA officials tomorrow. He is expected to present all the details before the ministry,” Tynsong said.
The deputy chief minister said, there is a need to have such a meeting between the state and the central governments as it is good to listen to both the sides.
The MHA summon came after Shiromani Akali Dal leader from Delhi, Manjinder Singh Sirsa, sought the intervention of Union Home Minister Amit Shah following a threat by a banned militant organization, the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), to the illegal settlers at Punjabi Lane.
The HNLC also expressed its support to the state government for the move to identify illegal settlers of the area, also known as Thew Iew Mawlong. The state police, however, has downplayed the threat.
Of the hundreds of people at Punjabi Lane, only 184 employees of the Shillong Municipal Board and government departments and their families have earlier been identified as legal settlers, official 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 attacked at the Punjabi Lane area and they received injuries. As rumours of the assaulted victims dying in hospital spread on social media, people attacked the 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 Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma.
However, the Meghalaya administration expressed unhappiness after the Punjab government sanctioned Rs 60 lakh as compensation to the community members who were affected by the violence.
The matter was then referred to 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 or not. (PTI)