Yesterday, I had the opportunity to interview the Headman of Police Bazaar, a locality in Shillong. An article written by me based on the interview, follows.
“My forefathers came to Shillong as early as 1872, even before the capital city was shifted from Cherrapunji to Shillong”, begins Mr. Shankarlal Singhania, the Headman of Police Bazaar. Mr. Singhania even at his age, was very enthusiastic in interacting with us. He began with how the great earthquake in 1897 destroyed all the stone and lime houses in Shillong and how the city had to start from scratch again. Because this area is earthquake-prone, a novel Japanese Technology was incorporated in reconstructing the city. Till late 1950s, majority of the buildings comprised wooden structures. Only the 1960s saw the advent of concrete structures.
Explaining how Police Bazaar got its name, Mr. Singhania says, “This place was the market hub even during the British Raj and it was in close proximity to a Police Reserve, and hence got its name Police Bazaar.”
Talking about the type of Governance in the place, Mr. Singhania said that Police Bazaar and Jail Road are the only two localities that don’t fall under the District Council, and hence are the only localities not headed by Tribal people.
When asked about the composition of the people here, Mr. Singhania says, “This locality mainly comprises Rajasthani families. There are also many Sindhi families which had migrated here post partition. Other than Rajasthanis and Sindhis, Police Bazaar also hosts many Bengalis and Gujaratis, who had come here to begin new businesses.”
Mr. Singhania, when speaking about peacefulness in the place, says “Only during festivals like Diwali, Holi or Christmas, there have been certain minor incidents of Extortions. It is bound to happen in any place. Otherwise, Police Bazaar is a completely safe and peaceful place.”
He feels that when it comes to maintaining cleanliness and hygiene, the Government has not been sincere. “The road construction project is already running 6-8 months behind schedule. Government is also not taking action regarding the roadside settlements, in spite of me writing several letters to higher authorities. Whatever little action that the Government has taken is at snail’s pace.”
Coming to the main point of discussion i.e. Education, he feels that Shillong has always been an Education Hub, inviting people from all across the country to pursue their education. Shillong boasts a number of quality colleges which have been established years ago, like St. Anthony’s, St. Edmund’s and St. Mary’s for ladies, among others. The ambience that Shillong offers is one of the factors for drawing students from across the country, feels Mr. Singhania.
When asked about IIM Shillong, Mr. Singhania says, “It’s a good initiative by the Government of India to set up an IIM here in Shillong. The college, still in its nascent stage (5 years old), has a lot to contribute to Shillong and the North-East. Former Director Mr. Ashoke Datta is a good friend of mine”
Talking more about Police Bazaar, “This is one of the highly congested localities in Shillong. There are people from all walks of life here. All non-tribal people are income tax payers. Tribal people need not pay taxes. The matrilineal system followed here is quite strange for people who have migrated from other parts of the country. There is a gap between the tribal and non-tribal people and an under-current is always there, though people do not always express it. But, for years now, people have lived in harmony and share a good rapport with each other. As a headman, I cannot ask for more”, signs off Mr. Singhania.