This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Sourodipto Sanyal. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Explained: Why Curfew Has Been Imposed On The Hill City Of Shillong

More from Sourodipto Sanyal

Since June 1, Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya has been under constant curfews due to protests and violence by people belonging to the indigenous Khasi population in the state. Since Friday, mobs have been indulging in stone pelting and clashing with security forces. In between, text messaging services and internet were suspended to prevent the spreading of rumours. So tense is the situation that the army had to conduct flag marches in the city on Monday.

What Was The Immediate Trigger?

On May 31, an altercation allegedly took place between a Khasi bus driver and a Punjabi Sikh woman in Shillong, Meghalaya related to parking space. How that escalated isn’t very clear.

According to an article in Scroll, there are two versions of events which are being narrated at the grassroots level:

1. According to the people belonging to the Khasi community, it took place because Sikh men allegedly beat up the driver after the altercation.

2. According to the Sikhs who reside there, Khasi men were beaten up by Sikh women after one of them was harassed by them.

Following this, there was a fake WhatsApp forward of two Khasi men being beheaded by two Sikhs, which resulted in the violence on Friday, June 1.

Whatever may be the immediate trigger, there is way more going on in the politics of the state which has resulted in such a grave situation.

Background Of The Relationship Between The Khasis And Sikhs In Shillong

To understand the relationship between the indigenous population and the Sikhs in Shillong, it is important to understand the circumstances under which the Sikh population came to settle in the city, the conditions under which they live today and how the local population in Meghalaya has always been hostile to ‘outsiders’.

How Did The Sikhs Come To Settle In Shillong?

Currently, close to 500 Sikhs live in the slums in Punjabi Line. Their ancestors first came to Shillong even before the 1857 Indian rebellion took place. Dalit Sikhs were first brought to Meghalaya by the British for the purpose of sweeping and manual scavenging. This practice continued till the 1980s. After independence, they were employed by different government bodies such as the Cantonment Board, police, state government offices and the Shillong Municipal Board.

Then, in the 1980s, manual scavenging was stopped in the state. According to the Dalit Sikhs, this was when problems began to surface when the locals started alleging that they had settled on illegal land. The stigma attached to the people living in Punjab Line becomes evident when one looks at the informal name given to it – Sweepers’ Colony.

Many people belonging to the indigenous population are also of the view that the people residing in the Punjabi Line have a role to play in criminal activities.

The Land The Dalit Sikhs Are Living In – Is It Illegal?

There isn’t total clarity on this. According to the residents of Punjabi Line, they were given the land by the syiem of a former village. In the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council, a syiem has administrative and judicial authority.

However, the current Khasi royalty has denied providing any land to the ancestors of the Dalit Sikhs who are currently residing there. According to an official document issued by the royalty, “The Syiem and Darbar Hima Mylliem never issued any land document to the Harijan community, but recognised and respected them since the plot of land was allotted to Dalits long time back by the predecessors Syiem of Hima Mylliem.”

But it does point out that the land document was provided by a syiem of another region.

The Violence Needs To Be Seen As Part Of The Politics Of The State

One thing which must be noted that only around 500 people are living in the slums. Why would the local population have so much problem with them? Can they be that much of a threat that they are willing to pelt stones and clash with security forces for that purpose?

In 2013, there were fierce protests in Meghalaya to demand an Inner Line Permit to be introduced in the state. There were reports of violence against migrant workers in the state as well. The Inner Line Permit currently is applicable in the states of Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.

What it does in essence:

1. A person can travel to particular areas of a state only if a travel certificate has been issued.

2. It is also not possible for a non-resident to buy property in the state.

3. Becoming a long-term resident also becomes difficult.

The idea behind the Inner Line Permit is to prevent illegal immigration which may be taking place from bordering countries such as Bangladesh, ensure job security for the locals and to ‘protect’ tribal culture.

So the current violence in the state needs to be seen within the larger political violence within Meghalaya in general and the fear of non-locals that many have in the state.

Earlier, the Bengali community has been at the receiving end of violence in Shillong and was forced to flee the state throughout the 1980s. Many of them were descendants of people who had been brought by the British in the 19th century for clerical government jobs.

According to the 2011 census, a large portion of the population in Meghalaya is non-local.

While there was an immediate trigger for the unrest that is being witnessed in Shillong, the eruption of such large-scale violence needs to be seen in the context of the history of the state and how many locals are not comfortable with people from outside settling in the state.


Image source: YouTube
You must be to comment.

More from Sourodipto Sanyal

Similar Posts

By Jay Velury

By Sayantan Ghosh


Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below