Lakshadweep row: Why Praful Khoda Patel's administration is facing backlash?
Residents of Lakshadweep have launched massive protests against the administration's proposed regulations, which they describe as "undemocratic" and backward. The residents had led a 12-hour hunger strike Monday against the proposed rules which include a preventive detention law, a cow slaughter ban, a land acquisition law, etc. The protesters also demand the withdrawal of Lakshadweep Administrator Praful Khoda Patel. Here are more details.
New rules aimed at making Lakshadweep 'Maldives-like' tourist spot
The issue circling the draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation (LDAR), 2021 made national headlines last month. Over the past few weeks, tensions have been simmering in Lakshadweep over controversial laws passed by Patel's administration. Patel—who took charge after Dineshwar Sharma's demise last December—argued that the regulations will help develop the union territory as a major tourist draw "like Maldives."
Controversial rules allow preventive detention up to 1 year
The draft Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation allows for the preventive detention of a person for up to one year A person can be detained for "anti-social activities" for six-12 months without legal representation. However, Lakshadweep—home to 65,000 people (96% Muslim and 94.8% Scheduled Tribe)—has one of the lowest crime rates in India. Residents say the law will be used to target dissidents.
Locals' eating habits not considered before introducing beef ban
The administration also seeks to ban the slaughter of cow, calf, bull, and buffalo without a certificate from a competent authority. The sale, transport, and storage of beef and beef products are banned. The administration has not elaborated as to why the regulation was introduced, however, the residents argue that the rule is aimed at targeting the locals' eating habits.
People with 2+ kids restricted from becoming panchayat members
The administration also aims to restrict people with more than two children from becoming members of the gram panchayat under the Draft Panchayat Regulation 2021. Those with more than two children will not be disqualified so long as they do not have more children (after the rule comes into effect). The locals have questioned the intention of the regulation.
Allowance of liquor on inhabited islands also opposed
The administration has decided to allow liquor on inhabited islands. Currently, liquor is only served at resorts on the uninhabited Bangaram island, while the rest of the islands have been observing near-prohibition. Liquor permits will only be given to resorts for tourists, Collector S Asker Ali clarified. According to residents, the allowance of liquor will lead to a boost in sales on the island.
Protesters miffed over changes in land use patterns
The controversial rules mention the declaration of "planning areas" and the constitution of "planning and development authorities" for preparing a land-use map, apparently for large projects. Locals say the rule was foisted on them without consultation. They fear infrastructural projects may result in the destabilization of the ecology and the removal of small landholdings of ST residents.
Administration's mishandling of COVID-19 also irked locals
Critics have also pointed to the UT administration's mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Preventive guidelines were diluted in December as the administration eliminated the quarantine for incoming travelers, following which, infections spiked in the UT, which had not reported any cases for a year.
Locals staged hunger strike yesterday
On Monday, locals in Lakshadweep led a 12-hour hunger strike; some outside their homes, others lying on charpoys, while some protested underwater. "Though we have been assured repeatedly that local sentiments will be heard and addressed, the Administrator is going ahead with his partisan and retrograde decisions," said UCK Thangal, a convenor at the Save Lakshadweep Forum, which is leading the protests.
BJP leader joins protest; Kerala backs calls to recall Patel
National Congress Party, Lakshadweep, President Bunyamin said the protest is also against Collector Asker Ali who had blamed the outrage on a misleading campaign by people living outside the island. BJP Lakshadweep unit President Mohammad Kasim also joined the protests. The Kerala Assembly passed a unanimous resolution seeking to recall Patel, while 93 bureaucrats wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticizing the Administrator.