SHILLONG, INDIA – Amidst public protests against the government’s proposal to relocate all Sikhs in Punjabi Lane, UNITED SIKHS today announced a milestone in their fight for social justice: two detained Sikhs are now free. The International Civil & Human Rights Advocacy (ICHRA) legal division of the organization represented the two young men – Anil Singh, 24, and Bittu Maci, 36 – in East Khasi Hills court.
Shillong Police detained Bittu on May 31, shortly after reports of violence between the Khasi and Sikh communities surfaced from a dispute between a Shillong Transport Service driver and a group of young women. Five days later, police took Anil into custody. Both men remained without access to their families until today.
“We are pleased by the court’s decision to approve bail for Anil and Bittu,” said Mejindarpal Kaur, UNITED SIKHS Legal Director. “Working in tandem with local officials and community leaders, we will continue to seek justice for the Sikh community, who are still under pressure of losing the homes bestowed to their forefathers two centuries ago.”
This was a great team effort to release these young Sikh men who were detained on false charges,” said Supreme Court Advocate Girdhar Govind. “We thank UNITED SIKHS for their service to humanity through this victory. Our legal team is hopeful that third Sikh in police custody will be released pending a hearing on Monday.”
In addition to advocating for the detained Sikh youth, the ICHRA legal team is working with Gurjit Singh, General Secretary of Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar, to secure the land in Punjabi Lane. Shillong Sikhs will have their long-awaited day in Delhi court on July 12 due to a motion filed by Senior Legal Counsel PK Bohra on behalf of Gurjit Singh. The legal motion filed with the minority commission has effectively stopped all survey and relocation action until the land hearing.
“We are grateful for the swift legal action taken by Mr. Bohra as we continue to advocate for the voice of the people,” said Mohinderjit Singh, UNITED SIKHS Relief Coordinator. “Shillong Sikhs deserve to have their concerns addressed in a court of law, and this is a great first step towards achieving long-term peace. We look forward to our continued efforts to uplift the community on ground zero.”
At the behest of the local community, UNITED SIKHS continue to assess critical needs in Shillong. Mental health and quality of life for families remain paramount after the lock down of Punjabi Lane rendered daily wage earners without access to work. The organization continues to host fire safety training, install fire extinguishers, distribute bedding, and prepare hot meals to people of all faiths at the U. P. School.
In an effort to address ongoing community concerns, UNITED SIKHS recently met with local authorities and elected officials, who have extended their partnership and gratitude for providing humanitarian aid. These officials include Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, East Khasi Hills Deputy Commissioner P S Dkhar, and Superintendent Davis N.R. Marak, Assistant to Director General of Police S B Singh.
Shillong Sikhs need continued support during this time of unrest. Approximately 350 families account for the entire Sikh population. UNITED SIKHS volunteers have maintained a routine presence in the community and regularly meet with Gurjit Singh and his congregation to provide updates on advocacy efforts and humanitarian provisions.