The otherwise isolated Indian archipelago of Lakshadweep, situated in the Arabian Sea, has garnered a lot of attention from the Indians living in the mainland after the new Administrator, Praful Khoda Patel introduced a new set of reforms to control crime and develop the tourism industry in the island cluster. Even though the orders issued are solely aimed at the betterment of Lakshadweep, the islanders have made scathing comments against the same and the administrator. Everyone is raising their eyebrows against the new orders.
The draft notification for the creation of the ‘Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021’ (LDAR), which makes provision for “acquisition and development of land for planning”, is being highly opposed citing the sensitive ecology of the island cluster. 94.8% of the population which has spoken against this reform belongs to the Scheduled Tribes, given that 97% of the Union Territory’s land is covered with forests. Another draft regulation that aims at imposing a ban on the consumption of beef in the archipelago has not gone down well with the 64.8% of the population which eats beef.
Yet another draft law, called the ‘Prevention of Anti-Social Activities’ is being questioned. This law is supposed to curb the criminal activities in the Union Territory. While the islanders are opposing this reform and talking about the ‘low crime rates’ in the archipelago, it is crucial to take note of the fact that in reality, most of the criminal activities are not reported at the local police stations due to various reasons (Source: Deccan Chronicle: https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/crime/100217/under-reporting-keeps-crime-down-in-lakshadweep.html ). In most cases, crimes are settled in their place of origin (Source: https://newsable.asianetnews.com/south/lakshadweep-lowest-crime-rate-real-truth ).
Another reform that is at the receiving end of serious opposition is the lifting of restrictions on the use of alcohol. But it is worthy to realize that the island is suffering from its own set of problems revolving around the smuggling of alcohol and narcotics (Source: https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/lakshadweep-lured-by-a-ganja-high/article33006462.ece ). Praful Patel had conducted 18 raids across the Union Territory to fight the drug menace. And hence, the ‘Goonda Act’ is introduced to uproot the smuggling and distribution of alcohol and drugs.
Throughout the islands, the radical anti CAA/NRC posters were brought down. Also, the reforms aimed at developing tourism in UT. This is the reason why the total restriction to visit the archipelago (yes, even Indians are not allowed to visit the islands, most of them are forbidden and the rest require a permit to be visited) has been uplifted. Patel had said, “Why is it that people are waiting to go to the Maldives, but are not even willing to come to Lakshadweep? It is to develop tourism and for long-term benefits that we are introducing the LDAR.”
Not only this, what the ‘liberals’ and Islamists are opposing in the name of ‘no crime’ and ‘ecological sensitivity’ can be proven wrong on other aspects too. Lakshadweep is also home to problems that arise due to ,berthing of illegal foreign vessels in Indian waters.
While massive protests have created a stir among the islanders, on the legal front, a petition was filed by Congress leader KP Naushad Ali, in the Kerala High Court, seeking an interim stay on the new draft regulation; citing the unique culture and traditions of the archipelago. He had said that the regulation has given the administration unchecked powers and will affect possession and retention of property by islanders. Even though Patel has already clarified that nothing of this sort is going to happen.
Nevertheless, a Bench comprising Justices K Vinod Chandran and M R Anitha observed that this was a policy matter and all parties should get a chance to put forth their views before any notices are issued. The hearing over the matter had then been posted to take place after two weeks. But notices were sent to the Centre and the Lakshadweep administration. In yet another legal move, the local Muslim Rowther community has now moved the Kerala High Court and has filed a writ petition which seeks an immediate stay on the reforms. The Rawther Federation has sought direction from the Court to the Administrator to allow the Rawther community to be granted time to express their opinions, comments and suggestions pertaining to the LDAR. The PIL is filed by one Muhammad Sadique.
Talking about the history of the Lakshadweep islands, the early history is unwritten. The first settlement of these islands is attributed to the times of the last king of Kerala, Cheraman Perumal. He, after his conversion to Islam at the behest of Arabs, escaped out of his capital Cranganore, the present-day Kodungallor, to reach Mecca. The search parties which were sent to look for the king then were shipwrecked on the island of Bangaram. From they went to the nearby island of Agatti. The island of Amini was then inhabited.
One Ubaidullah had started the conversion of the inhabitants of the islands into Islam. Hence, his grave today is a sacred place. Notably, more than 96% of the population follows Islam. The plunder of the islands was then begun by the Portuguese. After which the islands’ control went into the hands of the British. The Lakshadweep Regulation was introduced in 1912 by the British and a reasonable restriction on the coming of outsiders was imposed under this regulation. Nine primary schools and few dispensaries were opened up during the colonial rule. The Union Territory was finally formed in 1956 and it was named Lakshadweep in 1973. The island cluster was earlier called the Laccadive, Minicoy, and Amindivi islands.
It is quite clear that politics is being played by whitewashing rampant crime in the archipelago as ‘no crime’ and ‘peace’ in UT. While both Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are raising slogans of ‘saving Lakshadweep’ from its administrator Patel, it is worth knowing how the first family of the Congress party, back in 1987 had enjoyed the most extravagant holiday in the islands. That too, while the country was suffering during a drought.
The then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was accompanied by his family members- wife Sonia Gandhi, children Rahul and Priyanka, and family members of a few personal friends. All of them had used all sorts of facilities like INS Virat, aircraft, helicopters, ships, and speed boats to arrive at the islands. All other luxuries like Remy Martins and champagnes; an uninterrupted supply of fresh food and drinks from the mainland was enjoyed while using public money for the same.
When the party was confronted and spoken against, they had simply called the lavish holiday ‘austere’. An equally grand holiday was also enjoyed by the Gandhi family the last year in the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Following Rajiv Gandhi, many of his party MPs had later visited Lakshadweep for vacations.
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