Shillong Violence: Looking at Demands to Relocate Sikh Community, Says CM Conrad Sangma
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma lauds the city’s police for showing restraint during the violence, adding that all options, including the relocation of Sikh communities, was being discussed to prevent a repeat.
Shillong: Meghalaya’s capital is slowly returning to normal after being in the grip of violence following a clash between Sikh residents in Shillong's Punjabi Lane area and the Khasi drivers of state-run buses on May 31. Curfew, however, remains across Shillong as a precautionary measure.
Speaking to senior journalist Karma Paljor, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma lauds the city’s police for showing restraint during the violence, adding that all options, including the relocation of Sikh communities, was being discussed to prevent a repeat.
It's been a difficult few days for you. How do you see the situation on ground now? Is it under control?
Yes. The last five days have been tense and the situation has not been that great. But as of now, things look under control. I am sure in the next few days, we will see the situation normalise. We have been in discussion with different individuals and groups, trying to ensure that peace is restored.
You have been saying for the past few days that the violence was sponsored. Do you still hold by it? Why do you think somebody would sponsor such violence?
I think whatever the case might be, we are trying to find a positive solution and move forward. So, all the situations and issues can be analysed at a later stage. Right now, it is important to establish a sense of confidence and keep communication open and that is what we have been trying to do. It has yielded positive results so that is the way we will move forward.
Do you think your government has failed in a way to curtail violence in a city like Shillong which has in the past been so peaceful?
I think if you look at the incidents in the past 3-4 days, the police and we were very careful to ensure that no citizens are harmed. If you look at the events in the last five days where you have mob in thousands, any incident could have happened. It is extremely difficult task for the police, administration and government to balance both out. If anyone has been hurt, it is the police. Though there may have been small incidents here and there, the public has been kept safe. We have managed to ensure that minimum damage is done. So, if you look at the bigger picture, you'll see that the police force and the government have very tactfully resolved the issue to ensure that there is minimum damage to life, property or even injury. So as I said, the police have taken the worst beating.
You have also worked very closely with the Punjab government, even their leader coming here and doing damage control. How are they looking at the situation?
We all realised the complexity of a situation like this. As I said, that's why I said that from day one we were very careful. We made it a point to tell the police and administration that every life is important to us and it is the duty of the government to protect every life. And that is the kind of principle we have worked with and we knew and worked on this because we know the repercussions of the situations going out of hand. Hence, from day one, we were in touch with the communities and the chief minister of Punjab.
Yes, there were some wrong messages and news doing the rounds which were totally fake. The clarifications were made. They (representatives from Punjab) got the confidence after speaking to the people here who told them that the government has done a good job, especially the police.
Is there a long term solution to this? Is this colony which has been settled for such a long time going to be moved out? Are they going to be relocated?
You see, there is a demand for relocation. Ultimately, as the government, we have to find a solution and this can't go on for any longer. We have established a high-level committee headed by the Deputy CM. It has five Cabinet ministers and others will be asked to join as well. But, it is time we find a solution to move forward. It is in the best interest of everybody that we find a solution.
So, is relocation a solution?
Absolutely, we are looking at all the aspects, all the pros and cons, every area of concern. As I said, in order to ensure a long-term solution, we have to look at every aspect.
Are the agitators happy with you? Are they happy with the talks with you?
I do not know whether they are happy or not, but we are all realising the complexity of the situation as citizens, as leaders, as groups, as members of the government. But, ultimately if we work together and ensure that we don't resort to violence, I am sure we'll be able to find a way and that is the confidence we have given to the people.
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