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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Discontent Smouldering In Lakshadweep, An Archipelago In The Arabian Sea off Kerala coast

It Is BJP Controlled Union Territory Versus Non-BJP Parties Backed By The Kerala Government

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Raju Vernekar
Raju Vernekar
I am a mumbai based journalist having worked with many daily newspapers.

INDIA. Mumbai: The discontent is smouldering in Lakshadweep islands with all non-BJP parties united against the Lakshadweep administrator Praful Khoda Patel for the development regulations proposed by him to turn the islands into a tourist hub, on the lines of Maldives Islands.

The Lakshadweep is an archipelago of 36 islands in the Arabian Sea located 200 to 440 km off of Kerala’s Southwestern coast. The Save Lakshadweep Forum (SLF) comprising leaders of the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Janata Dal (United), CPI, CPI (M), observed a symbolic “black day” even as Patel reached Lakshadweep headquarters on a seven-day visit on Monday. The SLF has been demanding his removal and the withdrawal of the draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 (LDAR) for quite some time now.

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Ajayanan an office-bearer of the Kerala Democratic Youth Federation of India(DYFI), Beypore, told the “Transcontinental Times” that “We are opposed to new development regulations and many “anti-people” policies adopted by Patel. We want to stop the central government’s move to destroy Lakshadweep. The DYFI Kozhikode District Committee recently protested by burning the “coffins” of the Prime Minister and the Administrator in front of the Lakshadweep Administration Office in Beypore. The event was organised by the DYFI Kerala state Treasurer SK Sajeesh. The people and the Government of Kerala extend their fullest support to the island people. In addition, the Left Government of Kerala has already passed a resolution in the Assembly declaring solidarity with the island community. This is the first time in India that such step has been taken by the government. The BJP is trying to imprison those who raise their voice against it under the charge of treason. As part of this, a case was filed against actress and filmmaker Ayesha Sultana”.

NCP MP Mohammed Faizal Padippura through his FaceBook post urged people to wear black masks and badges and protest at their residences during Patel’s visit to Lakshadweep on Monday. “ Patel took many decision unilaterally. He tried to introduce the draft Goonda Act, Animal Preservation Regulation – trying to dictate the eating habits of the island-dwellers – and liquor permission, the most dangerous is the LDAR He is trying to grab land legally and many things are mentioned in the draft which are contrary to the Integrated Island Management Plan, vetted by the Supreme Court. This draft LDAR is the most draconian and the present protest is mostly against LDAR”.



NCP MP Mohammed Faizal Padippura and others staging protests wearing black dresses and face masks in Lakshadweep on Monday. (Photo credit: Faizal FaceBook)
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“Patel also shut down the Lakshadweep Building Development Board (LBDB), which was constituted for the protection of the beach sand which was used for construction and plastering purposes. To stop this, the LBDB was constituted to provide building material to the people of the island at subsidized rates. However now LBDB is in effective. In a recent meeting the Union Home Minister Amit Shah assured me and the BJP unit of Lakshadweep that the present notifications will not be implemented hastily. The regulations required for development will be finalised in consultations with the island dwellers and their representatives”.

Proposed Acts

Much of the anger appears to be directed at three of the draft laws — the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation (PASA), the Animal Preservation Regulation, and the Panchayat Regulation. The union home ministry is currently scrutinizing these three laws. This is apart from the draft LDAR 2021, which allows the administrator to acquire any land required for a public purpose. 

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While PASA provides for the administrator to order the detention of a person for a period of up to one year if the offender’s actions “adversely affect the maintenance of public order”, the Animal Preservation Regulation bans slaughter of cows, calves, bulls, or bullocks. The Panchayat Regulations disqualify those with more than two children from becoming gram panchayat members. 

The Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation 2021, not only bans cow slaughter but also prohibits buying, selling, transportation, or storing beef or beef products in any form. Violation will invite a maximum jail term of 10 years and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh.  The regulation states that it provides for the preservation of animals suitable for milch, breeding, or agricultural purposes. Around 96.5 percent of Lakshadweep’s population of approximately 70,000 people is Muslim.

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 is notified. It  also provides for the reservation of 50 percent seats in gram panchayats for women. 

BJP’s stand

However, Abdul Hakeem, President(Lakshadweep unit) of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) told the “Transcontinental Times” that first of all the LDAR is at draft stage and the new rules will be implemented without consulting islanders. There is no ban on beef and there is nothing that can affect the food habits of people as of now. Far from allegations that the administrative reforms are aimed at land grab, the real fact is that Patel streamlined many activities including government milk supply, hospital services, transport services, etc. Because of this, the corruption of existing people was exposed. Patel is trying to introduce a lot of reforms that will help develop the island and will help the poor. A long time Lakshadweep MP wants to take credit for all the good work and simultaneously criticize the BJP administrator.

Aisha Sultana controversy

A controversy erupted when a sedition case was filed against a young filmmaker from Lakshadweep Aisha Sultana, at Kavaratti police station on June 10, due to her reported criticism of Praful, in a television debate.  In a debate she reportedly referred Patel as a ‘bioweapon’ and criticized his policies in Lakshadweep. The FIR was filed following a complaint by the BJP’s Lakshadweep unit president, Abdul Khader. Lakshadweep leaders and civil society members said they stood with Sultana, and some of the BJP leaders from Lakshadweep also resigned from the party to express solidarity with Sultana.

Lakshadweep administrator Praful Khoda Patel and a filmmaker Aisha Sultana(file pic).
 

The BJYM Lakshadweep President Abdul Hakeem said that Aisha Sultana is required to appear before the Kavaratti police before June 20, 2021. Or else she could be arrested. But she may obtain bail from the Kerala High Court. But the fact is that her criticism of Patel was aimed more at seeking publicity rather than a concern for the welfare of the people of Lakshadweep. Till now nobody knew her, now she is in the national debate. Besides, if a few BJP members have resigned pledging their support to Sultana, they are either not active members or might have not been briefed properly by those protesting in support of Aisha and against Lakshadweep administrator.

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