#SaveLakshadweep: Thousands of island residents protest at homes and beaches

People of the 10 inhabited islands started the hunger strike on Monday morning asking the government to recall the union territory Administrator, Praful Khoda Patel
Hunger strike Minicoy
Hunger strike Minicoy
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Underwater, at seashores and at the verandahs of their homes — Lakshadweep islanders chose all locations and resorted to all means to register their protest to the new controversial draft regulations formulated by the union territory Administrator, Praful Khoda Patel. "Let us live peacefully on the land we were born" and "We are not against development; don't peddle false information" — read some of the placards that the residents held as they began their 12-hour hunger protest on June 7, against the proposed administrative reforms. A few residents dived underwater holding placards. Most placards had one message — “Save Lakshadweep, Save Democracy.”  The residents want the administration to repeal the proposed Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation (LDAR), the Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation (PASA or the Goonda Act), and the Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation (LAPR). "In an area without goons, the Act holds no relevance. Revoke Goonda Act," read one placard.

According to reports, nearly all residents in the islands are on hunger strike. Some of the essential services in the islands, too, have been reportedly suspended. Many netizens also took to social media platforms to extend solidarity with the islanders and demand these regulations be repealed.

"As an initial step we all will remain in our house, protesting inside our compounds holding placards and raising black flags. No one will have food today. Our protest will follow all COVID-19 protocol. We don't want to breach the law, but we cannot be taken for granted. This is just the beginning of our protests against anti-people regulations taken by the administrator," National Congress Party Lakshadweep president Bunyamin told TNM.

He also said that the protest was not just against the Administrator but was also against Lakshadweep Collector Asker Ali who said in a press meet in Kochi that the present unrest over the regulations from the adminsitration is a misleading campaign that is being led by people living outside Lakshadweep and not by those living there. The Collector had also claimed that there was no tension on the Islands and the protests did not reflect the sentiments of the people.

"The protests began from here, it is very much our sentiments. Our culture and our lives were attacked. Later we got huge support from outside. 93 retired civil service officers wrote to the Centre to call back Patel. We are happy that we have support from outside, but that doesn't mean that they can manipulate us. We can understand what is going on here," Bunyamin added.

Aged people and children are also participating in the protest, and many were sported wearing black and holding placards.

"I was born here and have lived on the island for the last 88 years. Nothing like this has happened ever. Many administrators have come here, and they all respected our culture and sentiments. This is the first time we are being treated like this. If this land acquisition rules come, I may lose my house, they may widen roads and the Island would sink. Our dairy farms are closed and they are regulating our food culture too," Muhammed, a resident of Minicoy says.

"From children to aged in my family are protesting without food. All houses are following the protest," he added.

Photo : Facebook, Aisha Sultana

Ever since Praful Khoda Patel, a former Gujarat BJP minister took charge as administrator in December 2020, there has been resisitence to many controversial regulations that he is trying to push through including the Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation, Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation, Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation and amendment to the Lakshadweep Panchayat Staff Rules, were some among them.

The Administrator has been accused of skipping public consulation and pushing for the Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation which could open up indiscrimnate infrasructure building and allow the administration to oust people.

Photo : Facebook, Aisha Sultana

The Administrator has also allegedly closed down all dairy farms operated by the Animal Husbandry Department, and the draft law in the name of ‘animal preservation’ intends to ban slaughter, transportation, and selling or buying of beef products. Islanders also say that Patel has also directed to cut the non-vegetarian menu from midday meals.

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