With parts of Shillong remaining tense for the fourth straight day, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma on Sunday promised that his government will find out an amicable solution to the ongoing squabble between the Khasi and Punjabi communities.
“Yes, there are issues bothering different communities and these have been pending for the last 20-30 years. We’ve asked for reports and we’ll ensure that we find out an amicable solution to these issues. It cannot be on streets but on table where we sit and discuss it together,” Sangma was quoted as saying by ANI.
The chief minister also brushed aside reports that some people were being mistreated in the city. “There are reports suggesting that some people are displaced, hungry and beaten up. This is not true. People are safe here and we are committed to ensuring their safety,” CM Sangma insisted.
The tension between the two communities can be traced back to a long-standing demand from sections of the Khasi society to evict “illegal settlers” from the area. On Thursday, violence broke out following an altercation between a Khasi boy and a Punjabi woman in Them Iew Mawlong, a Punjabi settlement in Shillong with around 350 households. Soon after the incident, several organisations in Shillong, including the powerful Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), reiterated their demand for the “eviction” of the “illegal settlers”.
While internet and SMS services continued to remain suspended for the fourth consecutive day on Sunday, curfew, however, was relaxed in the 14 localities under Lumdiengjri police station and Cantonment Beat House. “There were no reports of any violence during the curfew relaxation from 8 am to 3 pm. The situation is under control and more security reinforcement have been deployed while the Army is on standby,” East Khasi Hills district Deputy Commissioner Peter S. Dkhar told IANS.
On Saturday, the Army held a flag march, rescuing nearly 500 people, including 200 women and children, and shifted them to the Army cantonment. CM Sangma and other Cabinet ministers met with residents of the troubled areas, including Khasi community elders, to discuss the law and order situation.
A government press release issued on Saturday said, “The headmen spoke at length regarding the hardships faced by the local and genuine residents of the area and requested the government to immediately withdraw the police force from… the localities… The Home Minister informed them that the police force had till now exercised maximum restraint and would continue to do so.”
Officials said at least 10 persons were arrested in connection with the case and several petrol bombs and other sharp items were seized from them.
PUNJAB CM SENDS TEAM TO SHILLONG
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has decided to send a four-member team, headed by Cabinet minister Sukhjinder Randhawa, to the Meghalayan capital, to conduct a ground assessment of the situation and extend all possible help to the Sikh community. Singh directed the team, which has MPs Gurjit Aujla and Ravneet Bittu, and MLA Kuldip Singh Vaid as its members, to leave for Shillong on Monday morning.
The Punjab CM also sought Sangma’s cooperation in facilitating the team’s visit and ensuring their access to areas from where reports of tension were coming in, an official said. He urged the Meghalaya CM to provide protection and safety to the Sikh community and their religious institutions in the state.
NO DAMAGE TO ANY GURUDWARA IN SHILLONG: RIJIJU
Union Minister Kiren Rijiju, meanwhile, cautioned the people of Shillong against rumour-mongers and troublemakers and said no gurudwara or any other institution belonging to the Sikh community was damaged in the city. Taking to Twitter, he said, “Beware of rumour-mongers & troublemakers. There was no damage to any Gurdwara or other institutions belonging to the Sikh minority in Meghalaya. Law and order situation is under control and the state government is extremely vigilant & settling the case.”
Beware of rumour-mongers & troublemakers. There was no damage to any Gurdwara or other institutions belonging to the Sikh Minority in Meghalaya. Law & Order situation is under control and the State Govt is extremely vigilant & settling the case.
— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) June 3, 2018