By Special Correspondent
Kavaratti/ New Delhi: After the Muslim-majority state Jammu and Kashmir, now it seems that another Muslim majority-territory Lakshadweep island is on the radar of the communal forces. It is alleged that Lakshadweep administrator and BJP leader Praful Khoda Patel is trying to destroy the traditional life and culture of the island which has more than 97 Muslim populations. Several MPs have demanded that the administrator should be called back immediately. They have sent a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind alleging that the new administrator Patel is following authoritarian, anti-people policies in the island.
Kerala MP Elamaram Kareem on Sunday wrote a strong-worded letter to the President stating that Patel is acting with an “ulterior motive to destroy the traditional life and culture of the island”.
“In the name of reforms and schemes the new administrator is trying to completely destroy the traditional life of the people of Lakshadweep,” Kareem said.
Lakshadweep is a union territory and has no assembly like Delhi or Puducherry.
The local MP Mohammad Faisal has also hit out at Patel for his policies, claiming that “since January, close to 300 people have lost their jobs” because of Patel.
This comes days after people of the union territory are protesting against policies introduced by him since his appointment in December 2020.
Hyderabad MP and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi also hit out at the administrator. He tweeted that the Modi-led central government is causing irreversible destruction to the island and its people. He urged to withdraw all the anti-islander laws from Lakshadweep and replace Patel as the administrator.
Meanwhile, over the past few days, social media movement “#SaveLakshadweep” has emerged to highlight the ongoing crisis in the island. People, mainly from Lakshadweep and Kerala, took to social media with cries of “#SaveLakshadweep” to call out Praful Khoda Patel for his authoritative regulations like the LDAR and PASA.
It is to be noted that Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 (LDAR) gives the administrator powers to remove or relocate islanders from their property, for town planning or any developmental activity. On the other hand, under Prevention of Anti-Social Activities (PASA), a ‘goonda act’, a person can be detained without any public disclosure for a period of up to one year.
Besides, Patel has also approved the contentious draft panchayat notification where a member with more than two children is disqualified. Also, non-vegetarian food items were removed from the school menus in Lakshadweep, a place where people increasingly consume seafood.
People are also protesting against the implementation of the ‘goonda act’ calling it arbitrary. In his letter, Kareem too alleged that orders and promulgations issued by the Patel administration lacked “consideration towards the people, their choice of food and their livelihood”.
According to Wikipedia Lakshadweep Island’s population is 97 percent Muslim and the authoritative policies by the administrator, who is a close aide of PM Modi, are seen by many as an extension of the Hindutva project.
Not just that, Patel has been accused of completely changing COVID-related SOPs, easing restrictions, including mandatory quarantine, which led to a sharp spike in COVID-19 cases, given the island’s small area.
In January 2021, a month after Patel took charge, Lakshadweep reported its first COVID-19 case after being free from the clutches of the virus throughout 2020. Currently, it has a total of 6,611 cases (2050 active cases) and 24 deaths.
Who is Praful Khoda Patel?
Praful Khoda Patel, hailing from Gujarat, was the state’s former home minister when Narendra Modi was its chief minister. Known to be Modi’s close aide, Patel was made administrator of Lakshadweep in December 2020, after the death of former administrator and IPS officer Dineshwar Sharma.
Earlier, Patel was appointed administrator of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli in 2016. Appointing politicians as administrators was the Modi-led government’s departure from the earlier practice of appointing only civil servants.
His name cropped up in the suicide of Mohan Delkar, an independent MP from Dadra and Nagar Haveli, who named Patel, among others, in his 15-page purported suicide note.
In a Facebook post, Lakshadweep local Firoz Nediyath alleged that Patel got this post usually held by IAS/IPS officers only because he is a BJP leader. His post, written in Malayalam, about Lakshadweep’s history and how Patel is causing its destruction, is going viral.
Who is supporting Lakshadweep’s protests?
Apart from Elamaram Kareem, whose letter created a discussion on Patel’s policies and prompted many to urge the centre to reprimand and expel him, several other politicians and other celebrities are supporting Lakshadweep’s cause.
Among the most noted is Malayalam actor Prithiviraj Sukumaran, who said that he has great memories of shooting his films Anarkali and Lucifer in Lakshadweep. He added that he has spoken to a number of islanders and none of them are happy with these so-called reforms.
In a long post on his social media account, Prithviraj wrote: “How does disrupting the way of life of a centuries-old peaceful settlement become an acceptable means of progress?”
Footballer CK Vineeth called these reforms extremely unfair. In his long Twitter thread, Vineeth explained the new changes that are put in place by Patel’s administration and asked: “Do we turn a blind eye? Or do we step back and take notice. Of all the places I’ve traveled to, Lakshadweep has some of the nicest people I’ve met. They do not deserve this.”
Actor-filmmaker Geetu Mohandas who shot her film Moothon in Lakshadweep also shared her solidarity. “Please do not disturb their peace, disrupt their ecosystem, their innocence. Not in the name of development. I hope it reaches the right ears,” she wrote.
Kerala director Salam Bappu, who directed films like Red Wine and Manglish, also responded by saying that the government is secretly encroaching on the identity and culture of the people of Lakshadweep. He also opined that the centre should refrain from imposing fascist policies that undermine trust.
Activist and founder of Tribal Army, Hansraj Meena also tweeted in support of #SaveLakshadweep.
“I stand in solidarity with the people of Lakshadweep who have fallen prey to the fascistic policies enforced upon them by the New Administration and the Central Government,” he wrote.
In another tweet, he urged others to stand with the native tribal community of Lakshadweep.
Meanwhile, Popular Front of India calls upon all democratic forces in the country to come forward and resist the Hindutva repressive moves against the indigenous people of Lakshadweep. Chairman O M A Salam warned that the central government moves will endanger religious, cultural and linguistic identity and the civil rights of the people of Lakshadweep Islands.
He said the appointment of Mr Patel was a political decision with sinister motives, and in violation of the existing norm that requires UT administrators to be IAS officers.
The cruel decision to enforce a beef ban and the removal of beef from the school mid-day meal menu is part of imposing the Sangh Parivar agenda of saffronizing a predominantly Muslim population, he underlines.
Any attempt to take away their civil rights and endanger their unique identity is fascism, the front leader said.