Issue of Punjabi Line (lane) / Them Iew Mawlong / Sweepers Line / Them Metor / Mawlonghat has been a political football for Meghalaya’s politicians for the last three decades. Situated in the commercial heart of Shillong, on the border of Municipal and Traditional Shillong, Punjabi Line has seen it all. The most recent being the Secret report of High Level Committee (HLC) chaired by Mr. Prestone Tynsong which promises to solve the Them Iew Mawlong issue, once and for all within a week. In their politically motivated announcement of HLC report, the government hid the simple fact that there is a status quo order from the courts preventing the authorities from evicting the long term residents of the area. In all their talk of taking all the stakeholders along, government did not even see it fit to take the local MLA along, forget about the Dalit Punjabi residents of Them Iew Mawlong.
Communities who inhabit Sweepers’ Line have made Shillong what it is. Brought by the British Army from Gurdaspur district of Punjab, where they had been historically marginalized and oppressed by the Caste System, Shillong gave them an opportunity to live a life with dignity through their contribution to the municipal system of the city. Although Shillong by its tribal context meant that they were free from the dominant caste structures, exploitative nature of colonial and post colonial administration meant that their work was poorly paid and their residential conditions rudimentary and barrack based and without any security of tenure.
If public memory was not so short and coloured by historical prejudice, they would have realised that High Level Committee is not doing anything new. Their claims and activities are merely boring repetitions of things which have been attempted in the past. Karl Marx in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte said
“Hegel remarks somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.”
The farce of the present HLC can be seen by the documents RAIOT is putting out in the public domain. Thanks to Kong Agnes Kharshiing for continuously filling RTIs, these documents show that a similar exercise was carried out fifteen years ago under the chairpersonship of Mr. Paul Lyngdoh, where even the members of the Dalit Punjabi community participated.
No solution can be be found for the vexed issue of Them Iew Mawlong, if the solution is being thought about by land sharks who have for long salivated over this piece of land.
For a just and humane and practical consideration of the issue see this plan.
So check out these official documents to understand why Punjabi Line/Them Iew Mawlong question can not be a zero sum game.