The Residents of Lakshadweep are busy holding placards outside their homes, lying on charpoys and even underwater as part of a 12-hour hunger strike today to protest against the so called 'controversial new rules' planned for the islands in the Arabian Sea. The residents protested from their own homes and shops against new decisions that administrator Praful Khoda Patel had said will help develop Lakshadweep as a major tourist draw like Maldives.
This is a day after 93 retired top bureaucrats wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticising the partisan attitude of the new administrator and called his decisions 'disturbing'. The letter blatantly alleged that the new rules not just ignore the unique geography and community life of islands, but also give 'arbitrary and draconian powers to the administrator' to acquire, alter, transfer and remove or relocate islanders from their property.
In a desperate attempt to stop the Administration from introducing reforms to the Union Territory of Lakshadweep, it is the Islamists who in the last month opened up their propaganda warfare against Administrator Praful Patel and the Union government, accusing Patel of undermining the ‘Islamic character’ of Lakshadweep where Muslims constitute 96 per cent of the total population. The Islamists, using social media suddenly started to propagate false information about the decisions taken by the administrator and its impact on the Island.
Much of the anger, even today appears to be directed at three of the draft laws-
1. The Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation (PASA)
2. The Animal Preservation Regulation, and
3. The Panchayat Regulation
Why term the laws as controversial?
1. A slew of draft legislation, brought in by Lakshadweep administrator since February this year, have sparked a massive uproar. The union home ministry is currently scrutinising these three laws. This being apart from the draft, the Lakshadweep Panchayat Regulation, 2021 another draft law that has led to anger that allows the administrator to acquire any land required for a public purpose, they say.
2. So, oppositions, protestors further believe, "While PASA, most popularly known as the Goonda Act, provides for the administrator to order the detention of a person for a period of upto one year if the offender’s actions adversely affects the maintenance of public order, the Animal Preservation Regulation bans slaughter of cows, calves, bulls or bullocks, also their transport. The Panchayat Regulations disqualifies those with more than two children from becoming gram panchayat members"
3. They argue- "The Animal Preservation Regulation also prohibits transportation of cows and bulls for slaughter. While a number of Indian states, including Congress-ruled ones, have cow slaughter bills in place, the BJP has taken a different stand on the issue in other states where it is in power or looking to expand its footprint. In Northeastern states such as Tripura, Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya, where the party is in power in some form, there is no ban on consumption of beef. BJP national secretary Sunil Deodhar had even in 2018 said that there won’t be a ban on beef in the Northeast where it is widely consumed"
4. They debate, "The Lakshadweep Panchayat Regulation, 2021, disqualifies those with more than two children from getting elected to the gram panchayat. However, the law will not disqualify anyone having more than two children if they have been elected before the regulation has been notified".
All about giving communal angle to the issue-
As online campaigns to 'save Lakshadweep' were gaining strength, Elamaram Kareem, Rajya Sabha MP, had written to President Ramnath Kovind urging him to recall the administrator. Kareem’s plea was in reference to the Animals Preservation Regulation banning cattle slaughter and trade which he said was proposed with scant regard for the islanders’ choice of food and livelihood. He also decried the move to lift the restriction on use of alcohol in the Union Territory. Do these people even know what are they quarrelling for in first place?
Administrator Patel has been trying to prioritise the UT’s development and improve the tourism opportunities of the Island. He has has taken initiatives to improve the security of Lakshadweep due to its strategic importance. As the reports suggest, the had been extensive growth in consumption of drugs and alcohol among the youth of Lakshadweep. After taking responsibility as the administrator of Lashwadweep in December 2020, Praful Patel has conducted 18 raids across the UT to fight the drug menace and also imposed the Goonda Act keeping in mind the motto to completely shut the smuggling and distribution of alcohol and drugs. Anti-CAA, NRC posters placed by radical Islamist outfits have also been brought down throughout the Islands. The String Reveals, in one of its videos has very well explained the real propoganda against reforms put up by Administrator Praful Patel in Lakshadweep.
They criticise even the Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021. Why is no one in this case talking about the progressive provisions in the panchayat regulation? Will not it pave the way for upliftment and empowerment of women? And about the two children formula, very less of us know that Lakshadweep’s population density, according to the 2011 Census, was 2,149 people/sq km, much higher than the national average of 382 people/ sq km. The authorieties now have a limited land mass and have to develop resources and infrastructure within that area! Is that the easy job?
Thinking of the total development, considering all the possible aspects of livelihood of people of the island does not make Patel authoritarian, draconian or oppressive. It's high time now to keep away the vested interest groups along with the support of radical Islamist organizations who create a communal rift in society in the name of Lakshadweep.