Dalit Sikhs Resist Meghalaya Government's Relocation Attempt from Sweepers' Colony, Move Court

Reported by

Sarup Sinha

Legal Data by

Edited by

Updated by

Published on

September 30, 2020

September 30, 2020

Updated on

September 30, 2020

Location of Conflict

Sweepers' Colony, Bara Bazar

Ïewduh, Bara Bazar

East Khasi Hills

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Urban Development (Other than Smart Cities)

Permanent settlement of Dalit Sikhs on tribal land

(

)

People Affected by Conflict

1440

Households Affected by Conflict

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

ha

Starting Year

2018

State

Meghalaya

Sector

Infrastructure

Sweepers Colony, also known as Sweeper Line or Punjabi Line, is an impoverished locality in Meghalayas capital city, Shillong tightly packed with poor housing and infrastructure. The colony is populated by Dalit Sikhs or Mazhabi Sikhs who primarily work as sweepers or safai karamcharis in various government offices and establishments. Although the exact figure of the Dalit Sikh population is unknown, various media outlets have placed the number at 300 families. The Dalit Sikhs had [migrated ](http://The residents are not considered friendly owing to past incidents.)to Shillong from Punjab on the orders of the colonial government to perform menial jobs, such as sweeping and manual scavenging, which the tribal population of Shillong was not inclined to do. Soon after Meghalaya achieved statehood in 1972, the Sweepers Colony began to be viewed as a blot on the urban landscape of Shillong. Since then, the state has made repeated attempts to evict/relocate the residents of the colony. The residents are not considered friendly owing to past incidents. The situation got worse in the aftermath of violent clashes between the Dalit Sikhs and Khasis in May 2018. The Khasis claimed that some Dalit Sikhs had assualted Khasi locals over a parking dispute while the Dalit Sikhs claimed that the some Khasi teenagers sexually assaulted a young Dalit Sikh. The issue was largely communalised on social media and the state had to impose a curfew, lasting for days, to control the situation. Several Sikh organisations and political parties, such as the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee and Shiromani Akali Dal Delhi, dispatched their respective delegations to take stock of the ground situation.  On June 4, 2018, shortly after the incident, the Meghalaya government notified the Sweeper Line residents about relocation plans. The state set up a High Level Committee (HLC) headed by Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong to work out a plan for rehabilitation. The committee promptly sprang into action by conducting a survey of the locality – a move that was long opposed by the Dalit Sikhs who viewed it as a ploy to displace them. On July 8, 2018, the Harijan Panchayat Committee (HPC), representing the Dalit Sikhs, filed a writ petition in the High Court of Meghalaya challenging the HLC's move to conduct a survey.  On November 26, 2018, the Shillong Municipal Board (SMB) further asked the residents to furnish documents to prove their legal occupation. The Dalit Sikhs claim to have been the residents of Shillong for over 150 years now – a claim reiterated by HPC Secretary Gurjit Singh on several occasions. He cites an agreement letter from 2008 to substantiate his claim, according to which the land was bequeathed by the Syiem (Khasi chieftain of the highest order) in 1863 for the accommodation of sweepers. On the other hand, Erwin Sutnga, legal counsel for the Executive Committee of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council, told The Wire that the land handed over by the Syiem violates the Meghalaya Transfer of Land (Regulation) Act, 1971, which debars the sale or transfer of tribal land to nontribals. On February 15, 2019, the high court upheld the writ petition of the HPC and stated that no arbitrary action can be taken against the Sweeper Line residents without following the due process of law. In March 2019, the state government filed a review petition at the high court against this order. Responding to the petition, the court, in [May 2019, ](http://notices on the doors of residents)directed the Sweeper Colony residents to cooperate with the state government in providing requisite documents to the SMB, which began posting notices on the doors of residents. Disappointed with this verdict, in[ June 2019, ](http://notices on the doors of residents)the HPC approached the Supreme Court on the grounds that the review petition order violates the original high court order. In its response, the SMB [claimed](http://notices on the doors of residents) that the information was necessary to prepare a longterm and shortterm policy. Following this, the HPC dropped the petition and the high court [disposed](http://notices on the doors of residents) it. Meanwhile, a subcommittee was formed under the HLC to investigate the matter. According to the preliminary report, 184 employees and their families have been identified as legal settlers of the Sweepers' Colony, including families of 128 employees of the SMB and 56 others working in different government departments. The final report was submitted in August 2020 and a meeting was held to discuss the issue. However, Tynsong refused to share any details about the meeting and state that another meeting would be held soon to resolve the issue. In February 2021, the present Syiem of the area sent a draft MoU to the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council under the state government, initiating the process of transferring ownership of the colony to the latter. This development has worried the Dalit Sikhs. Tynsong was quoted in a news report as saying: "The Harijan Colony issue is not simple, especially the land in dispute. I am confident that the report of the subcommittee would guide the HLC on how to move forward to find a permanent solution to this longpending issue."

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand for legal recognition of land rights

Other Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

To be allowed to reside in their current locality

Region Classification

Urban

Type of Land

Common

Type of Common Land

Non-Forest (Other than Grazing Land)

Total investment involved (in Crores):

Type of investment:

Year of Estimation

Page Number In Investment Document:

Has the Conflict Ended?

No

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict

Constitutional Law, Other

Legislations/Policies Involved

Constitution of India, 1950
Article 14 [This article provides the right to equality which may be violated for settlers if they are evicted without due process] Article 21 [The forced evictions would be violative of the right to life and livelihood provided under this Article]; Article 300A [This Article guarantees the constitutional right to property]
National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992
Section 9 [This section provides for the functions of the Commission, inlcuding evaluation of progress and assessment of complaints for rights violations]
Meghalaya Transfer of Land (Regulation) Act, 1971
Section 3(I) [This section states that no land shall be transferred from a tribal to a non-tribal in Meghalaya without prior sanction by the competent authority under the Act]; Section 8(1) [This section empowers the competent authority to serve a show-cause notice for eviction when a person is found in possession of land in violation of this Act]
Constitution of India, 1950
Sixth Schedule, Section 3 (a) [This section empowers the District Councils to make laws for allotment, occupation or use of land other than reserved forest for any purpose, including agricultural, residential purposes etc.]; Proviso to Clause 3(a) [This proviso states that the any law made by District Councils would not affect compulsory acquisition by the state government]
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    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

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    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Whether claims/objections were made as per procedure in the relevant statute

What was the claim(s)/objection(s) raised by the community?

What was the Decision of the Concerned Government Department?

Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:

Forced evictions/dispossession of land

Lack of legal protection over land rights

Legal Status:

In Court

Status of Case In Court

Pending

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

Name of the adjudicatory body

Name(s) of the Court(s)

High Court of Meghalaya, Supreme Court of India

Case Number

WP(C). No.218 of 2018, SLP(C) No. 18324 - 18325/2019.

Main Reasoning/Decision of court

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

No items found.

Whether criminal law was used against protestors:

Reported Details of the Violation:

Date of Violation

Location of Violation

Nature of Protest

Campaigns (grassroots organisations/press releases/media)

Objections as part of official procedures

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Shillong Municipal Board, Revenue Department, Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council, National Commission for Minorities, National Commission for Safai Karamcharis, Director General of Police, Deputy Commissioner of East Khasi Hills, High Level Committee, Department of Urban Affairs, Meghalaya Land Record and Survey Department

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

LCW made several attempts to call the office of the Shillong Municipal Board but could not reach them. The researcher managed to speak to the principal secretary of Urban Affairs but he did not divulge any information, stating that he is not authorised to speak on the issue and asked LCW to approach the High Level Committee instead.

Name, Designation and Comment of the Government Authorities Approached

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Corporate Parties for Comments?

Communities/Local Organisations in the Conflict:

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
  • Documents Related to the Conflict:
  • Links Related to the Conflict:

Image Credit:  

Image Credit:  

Documented By

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Reviewed By

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Updated By

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Edited By

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