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Tension Simmers in Shillong as Clashes Trigger Long-standing Conflict Between Tribals and Non-tribals

An isolated incident of an altercation between a Punjabi woman and a local Khasi boy has snowballed to such an extent that in no time it went on to become "communal violence".

Sneha Mordani | CNN-News18

Updated:June 4, 2018, 9:50 AM IST
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Tension Simmers in Shillong as Clashes Trigger Long-standing Conflict Between Tribals and Non-tribals
The clash was triggered after a bus conductor was allegedly assaulted by residents of the Them Mawlong area. (News18)
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Violent clashes in Shillong have marked the return of tension between the tribal and non-tribal population that the picturesque town had not witnessed in decades. Tensions that had otherwise died down as the city assumed a cosmopolitan character have come back to haunt it over the past few days.

An isolated incident of an altercation between a Punjabi woman and a local Khasi boy has snowballed to such an extent that in no time it went on to become "communal violence".

“I would not say that this is tension between tribals and non-tribals. This was a local incident,” says James Sangma, Home Minister of Meghalaya.

“We have arrested the person who was involved in the incident. False news is being circulated on social media. We are in touch with MHA and have asked for additional forces. The Centre has provided us the help,” he told News18.

The all-powerful Khasi students’ unit demand the eviction of “illegal” residents in Punjabi Lane, where the clashes were reported from. This is reminiscent of the time in 1980s when the students’ group sought the eviction of “foreigners”, namely the non-tribal population of Meghalaya.

The so-called “illegal immigrants” are members of the Punjabi Dalit community who were brought here by the British to work as sweepers. They now live in a ghetto called the Punjabi Lane or Sweeper Lane.

It all started on Thursday afternoon when a bus conductor was allegedly assaulted by a group of residents in the area. An altercation between a Punjabi woman and a local Khasi boy went out of hands and soon, videos of the clashes went viral and further stoked fire.

Curfew has been imposed in 14 localities at intervals with few hours of relaxation since Friday in the affected areas of the city.

The Army conducted flag march while mobile internet and SMS services have been suspended indefinitely in Shillong to prevent people from spreading rumors. Normal life has been severely affected over the past four days. Schools remained shut and shops in the main market like Police Bazaar have also downed their shutters. Prices of essential items have skyrocketed with tomatoes being sold at Rs 100/kg.

On Saturday evening, a Honda showroom in the city was set afire.

The curfew was briefly lifted till 3 pm on Sunday but was reinforced again in the affected areas of the city.

Shiromani Akali Dal MLA from Delhi’s Rajouri Garden, Manjinder Singh Sirsa met CM Sangma voicing concerns of the Sikh community. He was satisfied after being assured by Sangma.

A source who was a part of an SGPC (Shiromani Gurudawara Prabandak Committee) delegation that visited the Sweeper Lane colony and the city gurdwara said that the Sikhs living here would not give in to the demands of eviction, nor will they part with even an inch of their land. The SGPC delegation later met CM Sangma.

The clash has once again renewed the debate of rehabilitating the Punjabi Dalit community living in Shillong.
| Edited by: Sanchari Chatterjee
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