‘For the first time Lakshadweep has an administrator ‘in the shades of black’
The overwhelming Muslim-populated Lakshadweep island occupies a unique place in India’s geographic and cultural diversity. However, a slew of regulations without consulting the local elected representatives introduced by the new administrator Praful Khoda Patel has triggered a massive outcry among the residents of the smallest Union Territory as well as Opposition parties. The new regulations include a proposed cow slaughter ban, a preventive detention law in the Union Territory, which has one of the lowest crime rates in the country, and a draft law proposing sweeping changes in land development regulations.
The protest has been intensified in the islands which have been a tranquil abode of people before the advent of Patel. When Patel arrived in Lakshadweep on Monday, he was greeted with slogans such as “roll back all weird anti-social and anti-public reforms” and “Praful Khoda Patel Go Back” by the protesters.
The “Save Lakshadweep Forum”, a platform of various political parties opposing the draft regulations moved by Patel, has announced that they will observe the “black day” by wearing black masks and hoisting black flags at their homes during the administrator’s visit.
Member Parliament from Lakshadweep, Mohammed Faizal Padippura said it was for the first time that Lakshadweep had an administrator “in the shades of black”.
In an exclusive interview to Muslim Mirror’s Abdul Bari Masoud, Faizal said the anti-people decisions taken by the administrator that turned the peace-loving islanders to protestors. Faizal was elected on the NCP ticket for the second term.
Q: Lakshadweep is simmering with discontent while people of the island are up in arms against the incumbent administrator. Why?
A: You all know that before the arrival of Patel as administrator, Lakshadweep was the most peaceful union territory. The islands are a tranquil abode of corals, lagoons and peaceful people. But the moment he landed here, he began implementing the agenda of his own which is threatening the archipelago’s social, cultural environment and ecosystem.
During the tenure of Dineshwar Sharma, a retired IPS officer and former IB chief, there was no discontent among the people. In contrast, the people are observing the “black day” by wearing black masks and hoisting black flags at their homes during Patel’s visit. It was for the first time that Lakshadweep had an administrator “in the shades of black”.
Q: What are those unilateral and anti-people decisions taken by the administrator that turned the peace-loving islanders to protestors?
A: This gentleman (Patel) took additional charge in December but he hardly stayed 20 days in Lakshadweep. Without understanding the culture, social fabric and way of living of the people, he started to implement certain things which are in his mind. And without pre-legislative consultation, he introduced three drafts of law. Under the Draft Panchayat Regulation 2021, the Administration aims to bar people with more than two children from becoming a member of the gram panchayat and to clip the wings of democratically elected representatives. The Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation (LDAR) may destroy the ecology of the islands and pave the way for outsiders to buy lands.
The Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation (commonly known as PASA or the Goonda Act elsewhere) will use to crush dissent, and the Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation (LAPR) that bans beef on the Muslim-majority islands. These drafts have been introduced without local consultation and are presently with the Ministry of Home Affairs for necessary approvals. I’m not sure if it incorporated comments by the people before it was forwarded to the ministry.
Q: Is the administrator (who has roots in RSS) acting on his own or at the behest of the Center?
A: See as a Member of Parliament, this is my second term, during my first term, this government was there. When Mr. Patel was appointed as administrator of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, similarly to Lakshadweep also an IPS officer Sadar Farooq khan was appointed by the same government but the way he conducted the business was really in democratic essence. He consulted with people on every step he had taken. His successor Dineshwar Sharma also followed this democratic tradition.
Q: You made serious charges against the new administrator?
A: You have to read what Mr Patel has done in UT of Dadar, Haveli. He introduced certain unscientific laws there and he is trying to implement these laws in Lakshadweep too. In Haveli, there are no Muslims, he demolished houses of Adivasis, former MP, and Mohan Delkar committed suicide alleging that Patel had allegedly demanded Rs 25 crore as bribe money. He miserably failed to understand one thing that Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu is part of mainland and Lakshadweep cannot afford to have mining, quarry, railways, tram, and 15 meter wide roads as these will destroy its fragile and unique ecosystem of the archipelago.
Q: You also held Patel responsible for the spread of Covid in islands?
A: When the entire world was reeling under Covid-19 first wave for a year, Lakshadweep remained totally safe thanks to stringent quarantine protocols and testing of inbound travellers. However, revised Covid protocol was brought into force by Mr Patel despite the strong opposition of the people. The decision has led to the fast spread of the pandemic and Lakshadweep has reported over 7,300 cases and 28 deaths. Those who came forward to protest the revised protocol were arrested on stringent charges and imprisoned. Filmmaker Aisha Sulthana has been charged with sedition for her alleged remarks on the spread of Covid in the islands.
Q: What about the Goonda Act?
A: There are attempts to bring in the draconian Goonda Act in Lakshadweep, which is one of the most peaceful territories in the country with the lowest crime rate and prison population. This should be considered a prelude to the repressive actions that await any political dissent that may arise on the island.
Q: You also accused Patel of not consulting the elected representative before issuing any notification?
A: Earlier, every administrator had consulted local representatives. We have a two-tier panchayat system and a district planning committee in which chairpersons of village panchayats, the MP, the district panchayat president, members and officers are members. The district panchayat is the final legislative forum of Lakshadweep. Therefore, any such promulgation is needed pre-legislative consultation which is the norm of any democracy. As MP, I am also a member of district panchayat and I am entitled to see a draft and it should be in the public domain. However, no consultation has taken place at all.
Q: Do you think permitting liquor will threaten the culture and ecology of Lakshadweep?
A: You must understand that liquor is banned in Gujarat where Patel was an MLA and Home Minister when Modi was the Chief Minister. He is saying that liquor permission in Lakshadweep is meant for tourism development. We are not against tourism development. But local entrepreneurs are still waiting to begin projects, submitted to the Lakshadweep administration years back.
Q: What’s the ideology behind the beef ban?
A: There is no ban on beef in states like Goa, Mizoram and Manipur, where BJP is ruling. Similarly, Lakshadweep, like Kerala, is a place where people are accustomed to non-vegetarian food. So, what is the need for such a piece of legislation? Patel’s intention in pushing for liquor and beef ban is to just divert the issue.
Q: What is your take on beef sans from the Midday meal menu?
A: Midday meal diet was changed without consulting the mid day meal committee members and I am also one of the members of this committee. Beef is the cheapest nutritious food a child can get. Taking away this without any consultation is arbitrary. I was not consulted at all. Mr. Patel’s intention was to keep a midday meal contract with Akshey Patra who is close to him.
Q: Did you meet Patel to apprise him of people’s resentments on his actions?
A: I met Mr Patel when he first visited Lakshadweep. We all members from Panchayat and MP had the first interaction with him, that was the only meeting. After that, this gentleman started drafting resolutions and promulgation without any pre legislative consultation.
Q: You took up the matter with Union Home Minister Amit Shah. What assurances he has given to you?
A: I explained to the Home Minister all the things and the whole situation and all those drafts which were introduced since taking charge in December by Mr Patel. I discussed in detail with him the drafts of three regulations.
I also told him that Patel’s motive is to destroy the traditional life and cultural diversity of the people of Lakshadweep through wrongly drafted anti public and anti social orders and promulgation. He was also informed that the plans put forward by the administrator are in direct contravention of the Supreme Court orders and the findings of the Ravindran Committee that specifically said that all development projects relating to the islands has to be discussed and has to be finalised after taking into account the view of the grama panchayats. In view of the mounting protest in Lakshadweep against the reforms introduced by Administrator Patel, I have also sought the recall of the Administrator upon him the people of Lakshadweep have lost faith.
The Home Minister has assured that the new draft laws for Lakshadweep which are being opposed by the islanders will not be finalised without consulting elected representatives.He has also given word that consent of the people of Lakshadweep will be taken into consideration before they are finalised.
Q: In case the Central government goes ahead with these draft laws, what will be your next course of action?
A: See, if the promise given by the Home Minister is not kept, and materialized then we will continue our protest. We put two demands one is to withhold draft resolutions, and second to recall the administrator Patel. If these are considered well and good, otherwise we will fight politically and legally. (ENDS)