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Shillong falls prey to fake news: The Sikh-Khasi tussle explained

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A dispute between a bus conductor and a female resident of the Them Lew Mawlong locality in Shillong escalated into a full fledged clash. The residents of the locality also known as Punjabi Lane clashed with the drivers of the state transport buses.

Shillong falls prey to fake news: The Sikh-Khasi tussle explained

Curfew has been imposed in the area to bring the situation under control. While it was lifted briefly, it had to be imposed as the unrest broke out again at various locations around the Punjabi Lane.

The unfortunate incident was due to fake news and rumours. A fake news spread on WhatsApp that group of Punjabi people from the colony had decapitated two Khasi boys. A huge mob assembled around the colony and clashed with the security personnel.

This even led to tribal vs non-tribal tensions as local leaders continued to exploit the situation. Call for the immediate eviction of illegal settlers was made which only led to worsening of the situation.

MoS Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju stepped in and advised the people not to fall prey to the rumour mongering. He even clarified that no Gurudwara or other institutions belonging to the Sikh minority had been damaged.

The Khasi-Sikh battle:

None would have through that a minor skirmish between a Punjabi woman and a Khasi bus driver would take such a mammoth turn. Thanks to fake news and rumours, the tension escalated with the Khasi tribal population gathering in large numbers and pelting stones demanding the ouster of people who they called 'outsiders.'

A document by the Khasi royalty states that the the Syiem of Mylliem and Durbar", the ancestors of the Dalit Sikh community were already settled in Shillong. They are said to be brought by the British army to work as manual scavengers as tribals living midst fields would not do this work.

The document that was issued in 2008 further states that the Syiem and Darbar Hima Mylliem never issued any land document to the Harijan community. However they were recognised and respected and the plot of land allotted to them was by the predecessors Syiem of Jima Mylliem. Only the Gurudwara, Valmini Mandir and Guru Nanak LP school were given valid documents.

The problems for the Dalits is immense. Almost none of them have been given Schedule Caste Certificates. They are also under immense threat of being evicted as the call for the same has grown over the years.

Many recall that attempts to evict the community from Punjabi Line has been on since the 1980s. The practise of cleaning toilets manually had stopped and attempts were made since to evict them. The Khasi say that those residing in Punjabi Lines are doing so illegally. They also accuse them of being involved in criminal activities.

Some of the residents of the Punjabi Lane suspect that there could be a larger conspiracy behind this. There have been attempts to move them out of this area, but such attempts have been futile. The Punjabis say that they do not want to move away from the city as they have lived here for long. They suspect that the attempts to move them away from this area is to make space for a mall. The residents suspect that this is being done to accommodate the tourists who throng the city.

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