SHILLONG, APR 20: In a hard-hitting reply, sent today to the Government of Meghalaya’s blueprint for relocation of residents of Punjabi Lane, Shillong, the Harijan Panchayat Committee after multiple rounds of consultation with its members, has stated that the proposal of the government was “incomplete, unsuitable, unprepared, unfair and undemocratic.”
In an exhaustive 6-page reply sent to the Deputy Secretary of the Government of Meghalaya and to other concerned departments, the HPC letter reads, “There are serious lacunae, sweeping and undesirable conclusions in the approach and attitude of the High-Level Committee of the Meghalaya government.”
“We are absolutely devastated that since the formation of the new government, ministers, MLAs and certain groups have been making unnecessary remarks saying that the whole issue would be resolved within the month of April. What magical trick do they have up their sleeve to resolve the issue within days? The matter is sub-judice and they are only paying lip service to respect for the judiciary. We will not buckle under political duress.”
“We have attended meetings of the government in good faith but the government is resorting to misinformation and disinformation through the media and at the meetings, the only attitude is to overawe us into submission to their proposal. The language of the political leadership is one of intimidation. They are putting our lives and properties at risk and making us vulnerable,” said HPC secretary Gurjit Singh.
The HPC has strongly alleged that the “entire exercise is an ill-founded relocation theory, which actually compels the resident citizens of the Punjabi Lane (Harijan Colony) to forego their rights, title and interest over whatever small land portion in the colony and to accept the prisons cells like accommodation being offered in the proposed Blueprint.”
Speaking to the media, HPC secretary Gurjit Singh reiterated that, “our original demands presented in the “Eight-point resolution” still stand and we will not buckle under political duress merely because it is convenient for the government to do so and simply because due to passage of time, the land has become a commercial goldmine.”
The Harijan Panchayat Committee which, despite all odds, has been spearheading a battle for rights of the residents since the last three decades, has in its detailed reply to the government said that the disputed land belongs to the Syiem of Mylliem, and not to the government and any attempt by the government to buy it is violative of the Meghalaya Land Transfer Act.
With reference to the recent incident of 31 May 2018, the HPC has stated that “taking advantage of a stray case of discord, suddenly the “relocation theory” was resurfaced for political and vested interests. We have all the official documentation necessary to live as citizens at our ancestral land in Punjabi Lane.
The letter pointed out gaping holes in the government’s blueprint -area too small and proposed houses pigeonholes, official building guidelines violated, no roadmap of demolition of present structures, no public amenities and last but not the least no specification of title to the land and the houses.
“There are so many grey areas and gaps. The government must clarify about all such concerns and only then it can be taken up for consideration by the Harijan Panchayat Committee, without prejudice to our right to reject the proposal” stated Gurjit Singh while speaking to media personnel.
Deriding the government’s haste, the HPC remarked, “It has been held by the Supreme Court of India and other courts as well that the right to lead a dignified life is an inalienable right and provisions of housing cannot be such that it is inhabitable for residents to live there. In the light of such judicial pronouncements, the residents are entitled to a better resolution.”
In an earnest appeal to the government and people of Meghalaya, Gurjit Singh said, “the government must stop the witch hunt and allow us to build our houses and we can assure that the beauty of the area will be fully maintained and for this the residents have the full support of the Sikh community.”
“The residents of Punjabi Lane want to live with honour and dignity at the land of their forefathers and it would be improper to treat them as aliens. The solution to this should be peaceful, amicable, mutual and permanent, without trampling on our fundamental rights,” he added.