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Shillong calms down as violence abates but Sikh delegation strikes discordant note

The indefinite curfew in the agitation hotspots continued on Tuesday but will be relaxed from 7am to 12 noon on Wednesday while the rest of the city will be under curfew from 6 pm to 5am.

india Updated: Jun 06, 2018 00:06 IST
David Laitphlang
David Laitphlang
Hindustan Times, Shillong
Shillong,violence,Sikh delegation
Army conducts a flag march in Meghalaya capital Shillong on Monday evening.(HT Photo)

With the Meghalaya capital remaining largely peaceful on Tuesday, citizens are cautiously optimistic that peace will return sooner rather than later after sectarian violence rocked the city for five days.

Residents of Mawkhar, Wahingdoh, Riatsamthiah and Jaiaw, which were some of the violence-hit areas, rejoiced as the news spread that the state government had formed a high-level committee to find a permanent solution to the issue of relocation of the sweeper colony from Them Metor, near the Motphran area of the city, where an incident of assault on Thursday led to clashes between security forces and locals.

The indefinite curfew in the agitation hotspots continued on Tuesday but will be relaxed on Wednesday morning from 7am to 12 noon while the rest of the city will be under curfew from 6 pm to 5am.

The army also conducted another flag march through some sensitive areas of the city in a show of strength. Nineteen companies of paramilitary forces are on the ground to maintain peace. Police said that they used 1,000 tear gas shells to quell the violence in the last four days. Local television media reported that some of them were found to have been expired.

Chief Minister Conrad Sangma held meetings with citizen groups, religious leaders and representatives of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the organisation that manages the Golden Temple in Amritsar as well as other gurdwaras in the country.

SGPC vice president Harpal Singh Jallah and general secretary Bijay Singh, said that they were happy to see that the rumours of violence towards Sikhs during the clashes were unfounded and they urged the government to keep the residents of the sweeper colony informed if they are to be moved to another neighbourhood.

However, in contrast to the measured tone from the SGPC and Punjab political figures who had previously visited the city, United Sikhs, a US-registered organisation that claims to be ‘affiliated’ to the United Nations, said that any move to shift the sweeper colony residents would be unacceptable and the state government must find an alternative solution.

“Sikhs had never been asked to leave Islamic countries like Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq or Pakistan but is being asked to leave their homes in a Shillong neighbourhood that they have lived in for decades,” said Mohinderjit Singh who led the delegation of United Sikhs.

Moving them could well be a challenge for the government anyway as some residents and the local headman of Nongmynsong, the neighbourhood where accommodation to house the residents of the sweeper colony was allotted by the government, protested against any relocation plan.

Shops in Nongmynsong were shuttered in the morning, but opened later in the day.

Meanwhile the Congress legislative party slammed the NPP-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) for “messing up everything.”

The Congress also demanded a judicial inquiry to “give a very transparent and complete picture about the situation and the ways and means of handling the situation and getting the whole issue resolved,” former chief minister and leader of the opposition Dr Mukul Sangma said.

The party also challenged the ruling NPP that if it is not competent to handle the prevailing law and order situation, the Congress would handle it within a reasonable time.

“The Congress brought peace to Meghalaya after years of militancy, but the MDA messed up in less than 100 days in government,” Dr Sangma said..

First Published: Jun 06, 2018 00:03 IST