Tensions have been simmering in Lakshadweep, an idyllic archipelago of 36 islands, over a number of controversial proposals ranging from a beef ban to the nod to liquor sale, in an Union territory that largely has a Muslim population. Calling the orders “anti-people,” critics see new regulations as a threat to the cultural identity of inhabitants and the fragile ecology of the islands.
The controversial proposals also include disqualification of people with more than two children who wish to contest the village council elections to taking over land belonging to the locals for the purpose of development. It also seeks to implement the anti-social Activities Regulation bill, 2021, or the goonda act, in the islands where the crime rate is already very low.
The local government says that the orders are being introduced for the development of the islands and aims to make it a popular holiday destination like the Maldives. Meanwhile, the Centre has dismissed the criticism saying it is a result of Patel’s efforts to end “corrupt practices” involving local politicians prevalent and usher in development there.
Here are the key points to know about the row:
1) Praful Khoda Patel took over as the new administrator of Lakshadweep in December last year following the death of Dineshwar Sharma the same month. He is also the administrator of the UT of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.
2) The Union territory has close to 95% Muslim population with Scheduled Tribes status. According to the 2011 census, the population of the archipelago is 64,473. Among 37-odd islands, only 10 are inhabited.
3) At the centre of the row is the anti-social Activities Regulation bill, 2021, or the goonda act in the islands’ territory where the crime rate is already very low.
4) According to the National Crime Records Bureau (2019) report, the island had zero cases of major crimes such as rape, murder, kidnapping and dacoity. The number of violent incidents reported in the island was 16 in 2019 and 13 cases related to liquor and drug-related cases.
5) On Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation, locals allege that this will give sweeping powers to the administrator to take over land forcefully.
6) The locals also fear that the regulation will impede the livelihood of traditional fishermen. Fishing is one of the main revenue generators for the people of Lakshadweep.
7) It also introduced a proposal to disqualify people with more than two children who wish to contest the village council elections. Islanders say it will rob many of their right to contest in elections.
8) Locals also allege that the dilution in the local Covid-19 norms has led to a massive surge in daily cases of coronavirus disease. Not a single case of Covid-19 was reported from the island till December 2020, after which the positivity rate has surged to more than 10%.
9) Except Bangaram island, Lakshadweep is a non-alcoholic zone due to its Muslim-majority population. With the administration now planning liquor permits in three more islands, locals fear that it will affect their culture.