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Harijan Colony issue: HPC seeks Shah’s intervention

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SHILLONG, March 12: The Harijan Panchayat Committee (HPC) has urged Union Home Minister Amit Shah to take up the Harijan Colony issue in a tripartite manner with Meghalaya government in view of the prevailing fear and insecurity among the residents after the March 9 IED blast.
In a letter to Shah, the HPC said the blast at the City Bus Syndicate inside the entrance of the Punjabi Colony has not only caused physical damage to the nearby infrastructure but also instilled a sense of fear among the residents.
“Walls and windows of many neighbouring houses and shops, including the proposed community water supply area, have been devastated. Lakhan Singh Nahar, a state cricketer and a resident of our community, sustained injuries from this cowardly act,” the HPC said.
It alleged that the Sikhs of Punjabi Colony have been subjected to threats from various tribal groups through the media and on a regular basis since the attack in 2018.
“These groups have been openly inimical to the presence of non-tribals in Meghalaya, creating a sustained atmosphere of intimidation and fear. There have been sporadic incidents of attacks on Sikhs too. They have not been reprimanded or stopped from spreading hate and prejudice,” the HPC said.
Pointing out that the case concerning the rights and residence of their community members is currently sub-judice, with ongoing efforts among state government, HPC and other stakeholders to reach an amicable resolution, the letter mentioned that despite numerous meetings and dialogues, tangible progress has been elusive.  “Even the promise of intervention by the Government of India, made in the wake of previous tensions, remains unfulfilled. We are confident that if the Union government takes the initiative to resolve the matter, it should be easily possible,” the HPC said.
“The recent blast, we fear, is a deliberate attempt to derail the fragile peace process. This incident in not isolated but is indicative of the larger issue of communal harmony and the safety of minority communities within the state of Meghalaya. The arrests in the case are indicative of acts of elements instilling fear and attempting to overawe the beleaguered residents of the Punjabi Colony,” the letter read.
Stating that no one in the government, including Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma, has condemned the blast, the HPC said, “The political leadership, which generally issues statements against Punjabi Colony residents at the drop of a hat, has not uttered a word or visited the area to express concern about the blast or support the residents”.
The HPC said the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, National Commission of Minorities, National Commission for Human Rights and other bodies paid visits to the Punjabi Lane as the Sikhs continue to fight for their rights.
Urging the Centre to take immediate and decisive action, the HPC said, “It is imperative to not only investigate this recent act of violence thoroughly but also to hold accountable those who have been issuing threats and fostering an environment of fear among the non-tribal populations. We believe that peace and order can be restored with swift action against the mischief-makers, rather than allowing such critical issues to be brushed under the carpet.”
“The residents of Punjabi Colony seek nothing but to live in peace and harmony, contributing to the society and economy of Meghalaya as we have done for generations. The current state of fear and insecurity hampers not only our well-being but also the broader societal cohesion and development of the state,” the HPC said.
Stating that the Centre is duty-bound to uphold the rule of law and protect the rights and safety of all its citizens, regardless of their ethnic or communal backgrounds, the letter to Shah said, “Your immediate attention and intervention in this matter will not only ensure the safety of the residents of Punjabi Colony but also send a strong message against communal violence and intolerance. We look forward to your swift action and support in these trying times.”

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