An archipelago of 36 islands, Lakshadweep came as a blessing in disguise for India when the war with Pakistan was at its peak. Sprawling over an area of approximately 32 sq m, the isolated island has a plethora of cultural practices. Though most of its residents are Muslims, the practice of Islamism in this island is unlike any other country’s.
All of a sudden, the island has been reeling under the onslaught of disturbing new reforms introduced by the newly appointed administrator Praful Khoda Patel. An MLA from Gujarat and a close ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Patel has neither been a civil servant nor an administrator for any other UT earlier. He has been appointed by the BJP-led government in a pursuit to carry out their political activities at ease.
The contentious regulations have been witnessing public outrage on a widespread scale as they are unarguably a threat to their livelihoods and cultural practices. Without people’s consultation, three new reforms have been imposed on the islanders on development authority and animal preservation to Goonda Act — a so-called way of the BJP to prevent anti-social activities on an island that has the lowest crime rate in the country.
What came as a bolt from the blue is all these are expected to come into effect while the whole nation is neck-deep in sickness and trying to combat the curb of the raging pandemic. In conjunction with this, the new administrator is solely responsible for the surge in the number of Covid cases in a place that had little to no cases till January 2020. After the relaxation of Covid protocols announced by Patel, 7,000 cases have been reported so far, equivalent to one-tenth of the union territory’s population.
The very first regulation proposes the orderly and progressive development of the island that, in other words, means carrying out construction of buildings and running engineering or mining operation without the consent of the public. No matter what development the government proposes to do to transform the island into a better place will definitely leave a devastating effect on the sanctity and environment as the island is ecologically sensitive.
Secondly, there seems to be a remarkable change in the consumption of food as one of the reforms aims to ban beef and proposes to put offenders behind bars or impose fine. On the contrary, sale of liquor has been given a clear nod in an island where most of the population practices Islam. This has deepened discontentment among the islanders, but the Centre seeks to enforce the laws for electoral gain and power.
In addition to these, islanders with more than two children will not be allowed to contest for Panchayat polls, which in turn seems to be an impediment for people. The most vexatious among all the laws is so called the Goonda Act, which gives unlimited power to detain anyone without any legal notice for one year. And this has been brought in at a place where the crime rate is at its lowest in the whole country.
Widespread condemnation has been voiced all around as several leaders posted online, including Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijiyan, who said that these new laws are a cause of serious concern and put a challenge on the heritage on the island. In retaliation, the BJP said that several parties have been spreading false propaganda against the Modi government, albeit eight leaders of the saffron party have resigned against the acrimonious imposition of the reforms.
It sets the alarm bells ringing in our heads as to why the islanders were not consulted before implying these laws and what was the need of such reforms where there seems to be no sign of unlawful activities. While these are to be answered, islanders might have to prepare to bear the brunt.