What is behind the simmering protests in Lakshadweep?

Proposed legislation in Lakshadweep changes the laws of ownership and usage of land along with handing arbitrary powers to the state actors on the island.

Lakshadweep

The natives of Lakshadweep Island, are protesting against a series of decisions and legal provisions brought about by the Administrator Praful Patel.

Lakshwadeep locals are using various social media platforms and hashtags such as #SaveLakshdweep, #StandWith Lakshadweep, and #RevokeLDAR to disseminate information and bring national attention to the contentious regulations brought by the Administrator, sidelining the cultural heritage and wishes of the indigenous people.

Praful Khoda Patel, a member of Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) was appointed the Administrator of Lakshadweep on December 5, 2020. Under his jurisdiction, several new legal provisions have either been implemented or proposed related to beef-eating, animal slaughter, fishing practices, and personal property. The protestors have complained that there was absolutely no engagement from the side of the government to discuss the provisions with the local elected representative and the natives of the island.

Widespread Demands to Repel the Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation, 2021 (LDAR 2021)

The recent protests on the island have erupted after the administration of Lakshadweep proposed the implementation of the Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation, 2021 (LDAR, 2021). The proposed legislation will bring change in the existing provisions related to the ownership and usage of land along with handing arbitrary powers to the state actors on the island.

The regulation allows the government to acquire any piece of land of the locals in the name of development projects which as the draft defines to include “building, engineering, mining, quarrying or other operations in, on, over or under, land, the cutting of a hill or any portion or the making of any material change in any building or land, or in the use of any building or land, and includes sub-division of any land.” The draft also mentions that no legal proceedings can be taken up against these development activities either before or after they have been approved, rendering it impossible for the locals to challenge the authorities and claim their land rights.

Along with that if individuals intend to use their private property for any development work or change the use of the land, under LDAR they would be required to seek the permission of the Planning and Development Authorities as well as pay a specified monetary charge. The draft has been kept in the public domain for suggestions and comments of the people, the window for which closes on May 31.

Administrator Brought a Slew of laws Targeting Muslims 

The LDAR 2021 is not the first law brought by the Lakshadweep administrator. Earlier, the current island administration brought the Lakshadweep Panchayat Regulation 2021 under which any individual with more than two children will not be allowed to contest panchayat elections.

Another contentious legislation brought about by the new Administration is the Lakshadweep Anti-Social Regulations, 2021. In a letter addressed to the SSP, the Lakshadweep MP, Mohammad Faizal wrote that on an island where the crime rate is extremely low such stringent laws are unjustifiable and vague terminology employed in the legislation such as ‘property grabber’, ‘cruel person’ and ‘unauthorized structure’ leaves open the possibility of misuse by the state actors against the locals, the New Indian Express reported.

According to census 2011, the Muslim community forms more than 96% of the population and in consideration of the religious beliefs and cultural practices of the masses, consumption, and sale of liquor was prohibited in the region but the new administration has lifted that restriction and is now issuing liquor license.

Earlier this year, the Administrator of Lakshadweep has proposed Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation, 2021. Under the legislation, a complete ban will be imposed on the slaughter of cows, calves, bulls, and bullocks on the island where beef is widely consumed. Furthermore, the legislation also proposes to prohibit the sale, storage, and transportation of beef or any products made from beef throughout the island.

A large section of the island engages in animal slaughter and other related activities as a means of livelihood which this regulation is bound to disturb.

Read More: Beef Ban Saga Continues: The Centre Proposes a Total Ban of Beef in Lakshadweep

In another blow to a major livelihood alternative of the islanders, it has also been reported that storage facilities for fishing materials and equipment that existed on the island have been razed down by the Patel administration. This has disrupted the economic activities of the fishing communities in Lakshwadeep.

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