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Locals demand removal of illegal settlers and army encroachment in Meghalaya's East Khasi Hills

Reported by

East Street Journal Asia

Legal Review by

Anmol Gupta

Edited by

Anupa Sagar Kujur

Updated by

Published on

May 19, 2024

May 30, 2024

Edited on

May 19, 2024

State

Meghalaya

Sector

Land Use

People Affected by Conflict

720

Households Affected by Conflict

150

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

4

ha

Starting Year

2022

Location of Conflict

Shillong

Maxwelton Estate, Kech's Trace, Ribong

East Khasi Hills

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Encroachment by Non-Right Holders (Other than Caste-based)

Military/Defence occupation

Land Conflict Summary

Locals in Meghalaya's East Khasi Hills protested against encroachment by illegal settlers in Maxwelton Estate and by the Indian Army in the Lawsohtun area.

In February 2024, the Khasi Students' Union (KSU) issued a 15-day ultimatum to the Meghalaya government to take immediate and effective action to remove all illegal settlers and cattle breeders from Maxwelton Estate, a nine-acre land at Laban Circle.

The KSU Laban Circle President, Reuben Najiar, said that the illegal settlers are migrating into the area unchecked, with over 70 houses and 300 residents currently residing there without the consent or approval of the Dorbar Shnong of Kenches Trace, Oxford Hill and Rilbong or any appropriate authority. A Dorbar Shnong is a traditional village institution of the ethnic Khasi community where age-old customary laws largely dictate governance. 

Najiar added that lack of proper sanitation and disposal of wastes in to streams have cause various health issues to the genuine neighbouring residents. He also questioned how illegal settlers were even allowed to breed cattle and other livestock in Maxwelton Estate since it falls under the jurisdiction of the Shillong Municipal Board. 

Following the end of their 15-day ultimatum, the KSU on 29 February 2024 constructed a representative house for the tribals at the disputed Maxwelton Estate to protest against the illegal encroachment by non-tribals and the government's silence on the matter. The KSU cautioned the district administration against dismantling the house and threatened of retaliatory action.

The Deputy Commissioner told representatives of the KSU that the settlers cannot be forcibly removed since legal cases were still pending. However, the union wondered that if, like others, even Khasi people from weak economic background can settle at Maxwelton Estate, which is government land.

Local organisations have been protesting against encroachments on PWD land in the area for a few years now. In September 2022, the KSU Laban Circle held a meeting with East Khasi Hills Deputy Commissioner (DC) Isawanda Laloo demanding immediate action to evict illegal settlers from Maxwelton Estate. The union informed the deputy commissioner that around 150 families had illegally settled in the land, which had become a hotbed of criminal activities and illicit drug trade.

The union also raised the issue of encroachment by the Indian Army in the Lawsohtun area, where personnel were allegedly causing trouble and creating fear psychosis among the residents. They urged the DC to take action and remove the signboard indicating that the land belonged to the defence department since it is actually owned by the PWD and individuals.

Fact Sheet

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Complaint against procedural violations

Demand to retain/protect access to common land/resources

Other Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand to evict "illegal settlers" and cattle breeders

Region Classification

Urban

Type of Land

Common and Private

Type of Common Land

Non-Forest (Other than Grazing Land)

What was the action taken by the police?

How many people did the police detain or arrest?

What is the current status of the detained/accused persons?

Did the person face any violence while in police custody?

Did the person face any violence while in police custody?

If any arrests took place, were the accused persons produced before a judge within 24 hours of the arrest?

If the accused was not produced before a magistrate within 24 hours, or not produced at all, what were the reasons?

Legislation under which the accused was charged

Was the accused person informed of their right to legal representation? Did the accused person have access to legal aid?

In cases where the accused person approached the court for bail, was bail granted?

Why was bail granted or rejected? If granted, what were the bail conditions and quantum of bail?

Were there any other notable irregularities that took place, or other significant details?

Details of sources (names of accused, names and numbers of any lawyers, names of any police officers contacted)

Status of Project

Original Project Deadline

Whether the Project has been Delayed

Significance of Land to Land Owners/Users

Residential area, Water bodies

Whether the project was stalled due to land conflict

Source/Reference

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?

Legal Data

Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict

Legislations/Policies Involved

Sections 158-160 [These provisions allow the Municipal Board to remove any encroachment on public roads, drains, water-course etc. The Board must issue a notice to the encroacher to remove the encroaching structure within 48 hours of the notice.]
  1. 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.

    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.

  2. 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.

    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.

  3. 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.

    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.

  4. 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.

    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.

  5. 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.

    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.

  6. 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.

    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.

  7. 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.

    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

Yes

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

Objection filed before Deputy Commissioner of East Khasi Hills against a violation of the provisions and rules of Meghalaya Municipal Act, 1973, which the board through its inaction is condoning such acts without taking effective measures.

What was the Decision of the Concerned Government Department?

The Deputy Commissioner told representatives of the KSU that legal cases are still pending, which means that the settlers cannot be forcibly removed as yet.

Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:

Non-consultation with stakeholders

Legal Status:

In Court

Status of Case In Court

Pending

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

No

Name of the adjudicatory body

Name(s) of the Court(s)

Meghalaya High Court

Case Number

WP(C) No. 32 of 2024

Main Reasoning/Decision of court

18 residents of Maxwelton Estate, Shillong filed a writ petition before the Meghalaya High Court, contending that they had been harassed by the police authorities. The High Court issued interim directions that the authorities should only take action as per the law and following due process. On March 21, 2024, it was noted that an NGO had been built on the disputed land. The disputed land was also under land acquisition proceedings. The matter is ongoing and next set to be heard on May 27, 2024.

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

Other harassment

Whether criminal law was used against protestors:

No

Reported Details of the Violation:

Date of Violation

Location of Violation

Additional Information

Nature of Protest

Complaints/petitions/letters/memorandums to officials

Campaigns (grassroots organisations/press releases/media)

Advocacy (for inclusion in courts)

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Shillong Municipal Board, Office of Deputy Commissioner (East Khasi Hills)

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

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:

Khasi Students' Union (KSU)

Information on the use of criminal law

What was the action taken by the police?

How many people did the police detain or arrest?

What is the current status of the detained/accused persons?

Did the person face any violence while in police custody?

If any arrests took place, were the accused persons produced before a judge within 24 hours of the arrest?

If the accused was not produced before a magistrate within 24 hours, or not produced at all, what were the reasons?

Legislation under which the accused was charged

Was the accused person informed of their right to legal representation? Did the accused person have access to legal aid?

In cases where the accused person approached the court for bail, was bail granted?

Why was bail granted or rejected? If granted, what were the bail conditions and quantum of bail?

Were there any other notable irregularities that took place, or other significant details?

Resources

Resources Related to Conflict

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

Images

Encroached Maxwelton Estate

Image Credit:  

HP News Service

Image Credit:  

Video

Hub News

Locals in Meghalaya's East Khasi Hills protested against encroachment by illegal settlers in Maxwelton Estate and by the Indian Army in the Lawsohtun area.

In February 2024, the Khasi Students' Union (KSU) issued a 15-day ultimatum to the Meghalaya government to take immediate and effective action to remove all illegal settlers and cattle breeders from Maxwelton Estate, a nine-acre land at Laban Circle.

The KSU Laban Circle President, Reuben Najiar, said that the illegal settlers are migrating into the area unchecked, with over 70 houses and 300 residents currently residing there without the consent or approval of the Dorbar Shnong of Kenches Trace, Oxford Hill and Rilbong or any appropriate authority. A Dorbar Shnong is a traditional village institution of the ethnic Khasi community where age-old customary laws largely dictate governance. 

Najiar added that lack of proper sanitation and disposal of wastes in to streams have cause various health issues to the genuine neighbouring residents. He also questioned how illegal settlers were even allowed to breed cattle and other livestock in Maxwelton Estate since it falls under the jurisdiction of the Shillong Municipal Board. 

Following the end of their 15-day ultimatum, the KSU on 29 February 2024 constructed a representative house for the tribals at the disputed Maxwelton Estate to protest against the illegal encroachment by non-tribals and the government's silence on the matter. The KSU cautioned the district administration against dismantling the house and threatened of retaliatory action.

The Deputy Commissioner told representatives of the KSU that the settlers cannot be forcibly removed since legal cases were still pending. However, the union wondered that if, like others, even Khasi people from weak economic background can settle at Maxwelton Estate, which is government land.

Local organisations have been protesting against encroachments on PWD land in the area for a few years now. In September 2022, the KSU Laban Circle held a meeting with East Khasi Hills Deputy Commissioner (DC) Isawanda Laloo demanding immediate action to evict illegal settlers from Maxwelton Estate. The union informed the deputy commissioner that around 150 families had illegally settled in the land, which had become a hotbed of criminal activities and illicit drug trade.

The union also raised the issue of encroachment by the Indian Army in the Lawsohtun area, where personnel were allegedly causing trouble and creating fear psychosis among the residents. They urged the DC to take action and remove the signboard indicating that the land belonged to the defence department since it is actually owned by the PWD and individuals.

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Complaint against procedural violations

Demand to retain/protect access to common land/resources

Other Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand to evict "illegal settlers" and cattle breeders

Region Classification

Urban

Type of Land

Common and Private

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

Legislations/Policies Involved

Sections 158-160 [These provisions allow the Municipal Board to remove any encroachment on public roads, drains, water-course etc. The Board must issue a notice to the encroacher to remove the encroaching structure within 48 hours of the notice.]
  1. 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.

    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.

  2. 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.

    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.

  3. 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.

    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.

  4. 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.

    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.

  5. 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.

    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.

  6. 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.

    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.

  7. 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.

    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

Yes

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

Objection filed before Deputy Commissioner of East Khasi Hills against a violation of the provisions and rules of Meghalaya Municipal Act, 1973, which the board through its inaction is condoning such acts without taking effective measures.

What was the Decision of the Concerned Government Department?

The Deputy Commissioner told representatives of the KSU that legal cases are still pending, which means that the settlers cannot be forcibly removed as yet.

Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:

Non-consultation with stakeholders

Legal Status:

In Court

Status of Case In Court

Pending

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

No

Name of the adjudicatory body

Name(s) of the Court(s)

Meghalaya High Court

Case Number

WP(C) No. 32 of 2024

Main Reasoning/Decision of court

18 residents of Maxwelton Estate, Shillong filed a writ petition before the Meghalaya High Court, contending that they had been harassed by the police authorities. The High Court issued interim directions that the authorities should only take action as per the law and following due process. On March 21, 2024, it was noted that an NGO had been built on the disputed land. The disputed land was also under land acquisition proceedings. The matter is ongoing and next set to be heard on May 27, 2024.

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

Other harassment

Whether criminal law was used against protestors:

No

Reported Details of the Violation:

Date of Violation

Location of Violation

Nature of Protest

Complaints/petitions/letters/memorandums to officials

Campaigns (grassroots organisations/press releases/media)

Advocacy (for inclusion in courts)

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Shillong Municipal Board, Office of Deputy Commissioner (East Khasi Hills)

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

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:

Khasi Students' Union (KSU)

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
  • Documents Related to the Conflict:
  • Links Related to the Conflict:
Encroached Maxwelton Estate

Encroached Maxwelton Estate

Image Credit:  

HP News Service

Encroached Maxwelton Estate

Image Credit:  

Hub News

Documented By

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Reviewed By

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Updated By

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Edited By

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