Across the territory of Lakshadweep, thousands of people shall be observing a 12 hour hunger strike on the 7th of June to protest against the series of legislations recently being passed by the government of the territory.
It is rare that we hear any news of national importance coming out of the territory of Lakshadweep, with its 65,000 mostly muslim residents normally living a regular life on its 36 islands largely living a peaceful life. What then has happened that the tourist hotspot is suddenly burning with protests?
Lakshadweep is a Union territory run by an administrator appointed by the Union government. The current conflict has its roots in the appointment of the current administrator Praful Patel back in December 2020.
Since his appointment as the administrator, Patel has initiated a series of proposals that has brought his government under conflict with the native residents.
The draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation (LDAR) 2021 proposes a new law, among other things, banning beef. The draft also includes a two-child policy, and to deter from people having more than two children, disqualifying such people from the gram panchayat.
Another provision in the draft authorised the sale of alcoholic beverages on the islands. Currently, prohibition is in place on all inhabited islands, with liquor served only at resorts on the uninhabited Bangaram island. The new regulation is aimed at attracting more tourists by allowing liquor sale in resorts on the inhabited islands of the Lakshadweep archipelago.
Besides, the draft regulation also accords the administrator the authority to “declare any area to be a planning area” on the islands, for the purpose of development, and will also allow the administrator to acquire any land required for a public purpose under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, commonly known as the Land Acquisition Act.
While Patel and other proponents of the draft are claiming that the initiatives will be a step towards modernising the territory and making it an attraction for tourists, many of the locals have registered fears that the draft isn’t in line with the cultural sensibilities of Lakshadweep, and are going to have detrimental consequences on its economy.
Besides the legislations, the residents of Lakshadweep are also upset about the rise in Covid cases under Patel. The first case of corona was detected in January 2021. Since that, the cases have risen to a whopping 11 percent. Residents allege that the entry and and spread of the virus on the archipelago by letting an indiscriminate pass of people.
The propests originally began as a campaign on twitter by the Lakshadweep Students Associations (LSA) last month. It eventually gained momentum and now stands as an issue of national importance, with prominent journalists like Rana Ayyub and politicians like Rahul Gandhi tweeting about it. Kerala legislative assembly passed an unanimous resolution, moved by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, demanding the recall of Lakshadweep administrator Patel.
The protests seem to be in full swing as of now, and the LSA as well as other other groups has asserted that they would not let the bills become law. The union government meanwhile has issued no statement on the matter yet.
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