SHILLONG: Local residents of Umsawli area under New Shillong Township who were termed as ‘illegal settlers or encroachers’ and evicted by MUDA, on Monday staged a protest at General’s Point here in the city and demanded immediate release of CSWO president Agnes Kharshiing who was arrested on Friday last.
The local residents led by RTI activist Angela Rangad voiced out their grievances and challenged the government to book them if they are found to be illegal settlers of the area as MUDA had claimed, while adding that the people are insecure as a result of which, they will be forced to utilize their rights of protesting against the government’s tyrannical attitude.
Stating that they have documents to prove their claim over the land from which they were evicted, the locals, mostly farmers and cattle rearers, said that they have been living in the area for decades and the eviction drive carried out by MUDA was done without any prior notices being issued to them.
“I have all the land documents under my husband’s name (Phran Kharkongor) to prove that I am the owner of my land and the claim made by the government that the land was sold off many years ago holds no ground,” Theirit Lyngdoh, a local resident, claimed.
Firm on her decision to continue to fight for her right until justice is served, Lyngdoh said, “The government has termed us as ‘illegal settlers’ while they themselves are indulging in illegalities by demolishing our houses without any notice.”
Angela Rangad recalled that CSWO president Agnes Kharshiing had earlier claimed that a part of the land measuring 5.25 hectares acquired by the State Government was owned by one Gracibon Kharsohtun but the same was ‘sold off’ to the Urban Affairs Department without her knowledge.
She also claimed that the State Government had fraudulently got hold of another 370 hectares of land in the NST from the owners – Unikey Kharkongor and Nearly Kharkongor – by means of forged land documents which had not been not verified by a Sub Registrar.
Rangad stated that an FIR had been filed in this regard in June 2012 but there no action has been taken till date.
Condemning the inaction on the FIR filed last year and the promptness shown by police in acting on the FIR filed by MUDA authorities against Kharshiing in just a matter of few hours, Rangad said, “These actions only imply that the government is indulging in illegalities and the charges leveled against Kharshiing are all fabricated and done with the purpose to shut her up.”
“We will continue to spearhead this movement until the government comes clean on the whole issue while providing us with satisfying answers attached with facts and proofs,” Rangad said.
Reacting to complaints by the Magistrate on their attempt to violate Section 144 of the CrPC imposed in the district, Rangad said, “Why should we follow the law when the government itself is breaking it? The government is not giving the people space to express their rights and the voices of the dispossessed have always been suppressed and neglected. So can we say that we are living in a democratic country?”
The RTI activist claimed that eviction drive was carried out without any order which is a violation of the Supreme Court’s order and it was the duty of the government to rehabilitate these people before demolishing their houses.
Later, a group of the protesters met East Khasi Hills Deputy Commissioner Sanjay Goyal demanding answers on the status of the FIR filed by the activists last year and the court’s order to carry out the eviction drive.
Interestingly, as per the letter which was received from MUDA through the DC later on Monday evening, it was stated that the service of notice to trespassers is not mandatory and they can be evicted at any time. The letter also stated that MUDA had fixed November 8 to conduct the eviction drive.
Further, the letter stated that 20 women private security were deployed as standby just to assist the police in case the need arises. However, on the day of the eviction, the private securities were seen standing away from the spot and they were not actively involved in the exercise, it was informed.
DC replies: Talking to media persons on Monday, Deputy Commissioner Sanjay Goyal said that the clarification demanded by the protestors into these matters have to be sought from the police and the MUDA authorities.
“Our work is to depute a Magistrate to accompany the eviction drive to see that law and order is maintained while the drive is carried out,” Goyal said, adding, “If they have doubts or differences, they can always resort to legal measures. They can always approach the court or the revenue department for the same.”
KSU condemns eviction: The Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) has strongly condemned the illegal eviction drive of MUDA to displace the local settlers at Umsawli.
“It is really unfortunate that this is the attitude of the State Government towards the local people. I am really sad that the people are silent over the illegal encroachment at Polo and Sweeper Lane at Iew Mawlong,” KSU vice president Frederick Kharmawphlang said here on Monday.
He said that the Government should first show the courage to remove the illegal settlers along Wahumkhrah right from Polo upto Saw Furlong.
“Despite the court order, MUDA had gone slow with the eviction drive to allow the illegal settlers to get the stay order. This only proves that the bias towards the local people,” Kharmawphlang said.
The KSU leader also condemned the arrest of CSWO president Agnes Kharshiing who had tried to stop the act of aggression and indiscrimination by the authorities against the poor villagers.