Shillong: Authorities today briefly lifted the curfew imposed in Shillong and other "vulnerable areas" for the first time as the situation improved, a senior official said, nearly a week after violent clashes between local Khasi people and Sikh community members rocked the areas.
No new report of clash was received today, paving the way for increase in tourist footfall in Shillong, called the "Scotland of the East". The curfew imposed in 14 "vulnerable areas" was lifted for seven hours from 5 am to 12 noon in view of the improved situation, East Khasi Hills district Deputy Commissioner P S Dkhar said. They had been continuously under curfew since June 1.
The prohibitory order was reimposed after 12 noon till 7 am tomorrow. In rest of the city, the curfew was clamped back from 6 pm till 5 am tomorrow, Dkhar told PTI.
Shillong had been in the grip of violence since May 29 following a fight between Sikh residents in city's Punjabi Lane area, and Khasi drivers of state-run buses. More than 10 people, including policemen and CRPF personnel, were injured in the clashes that followed the fight. Meghalaya Governor Ganga Prasad urged people to maintain peace and not dent the image of the state.
In a statement, he said events of the past week have caused a lot of concern to peace-loving citizens, and urged them to support the government in maintaining peace.
"Disruption of normal life due to violence dents the image of a peaceful state like ours and will have a negative impact on the state's economy, especially during the peak tourist season," he said.
Prasad also urged people to be wary of rumours as "fake news" could be deliberately circulated by unscrupulous people. Deputy Commissioner Dkhar said most shops opened in Police Bazaar and Iew Duh (Bara Bazaar) and people were visiting them.
With the situation easing out, tourist flow has started to increase in the picturesque capital of Meghalaya, which means 'abode of clouds'.
Assam Tourists Taxi Association started ferrying tourists from Guwahati to Shillong, sources in the association said. Holidayers were seen in good numbers at the popular Cathedral in Shillong, a cynosure of tourists. Hoteliers facing large-scale cancellation of previous bookings heaved a sigh of relief with tourists beginning to arrive from today. Minority commission member Manjit Rai met senior police and civil officials where he was briefed on the situation. Rai, who visited a gurudwara in Punjabi Lane, said the report will be tabled before the Commission tomorrow.
A high-level committee formed by BJP-backed Meghalaya Democratic Alliance government to find a permanent solution to issue of relocation of the Sweeper Colony inhabitated by Punjabis, got into action today and asked the departments concerned to submit relevant documents within this week.
Speaking to reporters after the panel's first sitting today, Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong, who heads the committee, said: "We have directed the Shillong Municipal Board, urban affairs department and law department to submit all documents and court cases relating to the land within this week for the committee to study in detail on the matter.
"After this, the committee will accordingly recommend a feasible and permanent solution to the state government for relocation of the Sweepers Colony, which has been a long pending issue," he said.
Stating that the terms of reference of the committee is to examine relevant documents relating to the relocation of the Sweepers Colony, he, however, said they need to know the factuality about land and occupants to decide on the issue. The committee chairman said the decision to constitute the panel does not mean that the government wants to buy time but to show that it wants to find ways to solve this issue. "We are committed to reach a solution," he said.
The deputy chief minister said he does not see any problem in relocating the colony. Relocating them does not mean deprivation but it is for the good of everybody "because we dont know the sentiment of the mob", he said.
Tynsong said the committee is waiting for the details about the number of employees working under Shillong Municipal Board. According to him, it would be too early to say whether there are illegal settlers in the area.
On opposition Congress's demand for a judicial inquiry, he said it would be meaningless to institute the inquiry since the main cause behind the violence is known to the government.