Lakshadweep: Beef Ban, Goonda Act proposed by Administrator Praful Khoda Patel

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan says changes proposed by Patel challenge the “lives, livelihoods and culture”, and cannot be accepted


Popular actor and Filmmaker Prithviraj Sukumaran has most eloquently put what most politicians from Southern India are also flagging as a socio political crisis threatening to engulf the idyllic archipelago of Lakshadweep. The Union Territory’s Administrator, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician Praful Khoda Patel, a former minister in the Gujarat cabinet of the then Chief MInister Narendra Modi, has cleared a range of ‘proposals’ that include a ban on beef, disqualification of panchayat poll aspirants who have more than two children, and introduction of an anti-goonda Act.

This has led to a major outcry, especially in Kerala, which has a language, and culture in common with the islanders. Actor Prithviraj Sukumaran who shared his long note on Facebook and bravely asked, “How does disrupting the way of life of a centuries old peaceful settlement become an acceptable means of progress? How will threatening the balance of a very delicate island ecosystem with no regard for the potential consequences pave the way for sustainable development?”

A strong political comment has come from Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who on Tuesday said the changes proposed by Praful Khoda Patel would challenge the “lives, livelihoods and culture” of those who live in Lakshadweep and “cannot be accepted”. He added that “Kerala has a strong relationship, a long history of cooperation” with the islands and thus “Unequivocally condemn devious efforts to thwart it. Perpetrators should desist.”

Vijayan’s words and reaction was echoed by many LDF and Congress MPs from Kerala, stated news reports. The Telegraph reported that Kerala-based Congress politician V.T. Balram said the administrator has been “executing ‘a Sangh parivar agenda’ since his appointment last December.” As recalled by The Telegraph, in 2010 Patel was appointed Gujarat’s home minister after Amit Shah vacated it following the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case. 

Lakshadweep MP Mohammed Faizal PP, has also spoken out and written to the Centre, along with other leaders, demanding that Patel be recalled and his proposals reviewed, reported The Indian Express. Patel, since his appointment has proposed drafts of the Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation, Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation, Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation and amendment to the Lakshadweep Panchayat Staff Rules, stated news reports. According to Faizal, the people’s representatives were not consulted in regard to these draft proposals. 

Lakshadweep Development Authority

One of the triggers for the recent uproar is the draft of the Lakshadweep Development Authority, stated news reports. Faizal told the media that this draft “is aimed at usurping people’s land. The Authority will get huge power to take over land without protecting the interests of land owners. There is a move to develop roads as per National Highway standards. Why does Lakshadweep require huge highways? The Administrator is furthering the business interests of people in the mainland.’’

The outrage has set #SaveLakshadweep to trend for hours on end. Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha), Central Committee Member of CPI(M) Elamaram Kareem, also wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind, asking that the “authoritarian Administrator” be called back. He stated that “Kashmir Lakshadweep is the new target of Modi Govt. People there are being tortured under the new Administrator’s rule. Everything to destroy their culture & traditions.”

Ban Beef, crack down on fisherfolk

Then there is the proposal to impose a ban on beef and has been drafted in the Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation proposal. This has contributed to the unrest in the Union Territory where Muslims make over 90 per cent of the population. As per the draft, quoted by the Telegraph, “No person shall directly or indirectly sell, keep, store, transport, offer or expose for sale or buy beef or beef products in any form anywhere in Lakshadweep.” It is crucial to note that meat and fish are a part of the staple diet in Lakshadweep, TT reports that “Patel has cracked down on the fishing community that makes up more than 80 per cent of the local population”. Their temporary huts, sheds, boats, net-drying facilities and storage spaces have been removed from the shores citing “violation of coastal zone norms” by the Patel-led administration, stated the report. CPI Rajya Sabha member Binoy Viswam also wrote to the President stating, “Dairies have been hurt by the ban on cattle sale and transport. None of the decisions has been taken in consultation with local communities or their elected bodies.” 

Meanwhile, liquor licences flow free

Viswam apprised the President that as Muslims are “over 96 per cent of the population” of Lakshadweep, “in accordance with the religious and cultural beliefs of the community, the consumption of alcohol was banned on the islands”, reported TT quoting the letter that added, “However, in a recent decision, the administration has begun issuing liquor licences under the guise of promoting tourism and individual freedom, thereby completely ignoring the socio-cultural context of the area.”

Covid crisis, after zero cases last year?

Another point that is most relevant as the nation grapples with the Covid-19, is the fact that Lakshadweep, which had “zero Covid-19 cases” in 2020, reported 6,611 cases on Sunday, according to news reports. Lakshadweep has “over 4,000 cases with over 20 deaths already,” Viswam has written to Kovind, adding, “Further, the pressure on the health infrastructure of the islands has increased manifold leaving the population vulnerable and worried.”

According to Lakshadweep MP Mohammed Faizal PP, “The administrator lifted all Covid regulatory norms,” and that “people arriving from outside were earlier required to quarantine themselves, but Patel relaxed those norms in the name of promoting tourism”. 

Patel, recalled news reports, is the first politician since Independence to be appointed the islands’ topmost official authority. Before that the Administrator was always a senior civil servant.


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