TNS Explainer: What's happening in Lakshadweep and why the serene island is protesting?

The placid Lakshadweep Islands floating on the Arabian sea are now turning into vigour with growing protests and outcries in the water-bedded territory over the new administration's drive of dismantling the unique way of living and culture. The island is one of the most attractive tourist destinations of Indians and beyond the borders as Lakshadweep showcases a blissful shade and ecstatic lifestyle amid the politically divided mainland India. 

But that shades of the unique lifestyle of the island had begun to disappear when Praful Khoda Patel took the office as the Administrator of Lakshadweep. It must be noted that Lakshadweep is one of the Union Territories of India through which it directly falls under the jurisdiction of the Central government without having state-elected assemblies. Having said that, the Central BJP government holds the authority to appoint the administrator of the island.

The Administrators would usually be IAS or IPS Officers, but this is the first time that the Center has appointed a politician as the Administrator of Lakshadweep. Khoda Patel, who is the administrator of the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, was given additional charge of Lakshadweep following the demise of Dineshwar Sharma in December last year. 

Ever since Patel assumed the office, the island has begun to lose its unique identity as through Patel, the Central ruling BJP is imposing its propaganda on the island like how it does on the mainland. The governance discharged by Patel has met with outrage and criticism as several local people have begun protesting against the Patel administration for destroying their unique lifestyle. 

Apart from the local people, the measures unfolded by Khoda Patel have also received massive flak from politicians, activists, and actors in neighbouring Kerala. Lakshadweep floats on the Arabian Sea, 200 kilometres west of Kerala and most of the people on the island speak Malayalam. As unrest escalates on the island, let's take a look at the measures of the Patel administration that have triggered the protests. 

Beef Ban: 

The signature propaganda of the BJP has come to the island, which holds a major Muslim population. With no assembly on the island, it has become more comfortable for the Central ruling party to disseminate its propaganda on the island. The Patel administration has introduced the draft Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation 2021 and if the bill gets implemented, it will ban the slaughter of cows, bulls, and bullocks. 

Anti-Social Activities Regulation Bill: 

The bill comes in a form of threatening the activists and people who oppose the government. The administration has introduced a draft detention law called the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities, which if implemented can give authority to the administration to detain anyone without public disclosure for up to one year. 

No bar for liquor bars: 

According to reports, Lakshadweep is a Muslim-majority region with Malayalam being the dominant language. The islands are non-alcoholic zones. Before Patel's arrival, the territory is free of liquor bars though it is a major tourist destination. However, Patel gave his nod for businesses to open liquor bars on the island, stating that such a move will promote tourism. Amid the opposition from the territory, Patel is committed to going by his decision of opening the bars on the water-bedded islands. 

Land Development drive: 

Under the guise of developing the islands, the Patel administration introduced the Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021, and if the draft gets implemented, it will give more power to the government to acquire any piece of land owned by any common man on the island for development purposes. As no state elected government, the Center can go directly and take land with the act. 

Diverting cargo to Mangalore: 

The Patel administration has introduced measures diverting all cargo to Mangalore in BJP ruling Karnataka. The move has been met with opposition because, before such measures, the majority of the local businessmen had relied on Beypore port in Kerala, a state with which the people in the island have strong cultural ties. Through such reforms, Lakshadweep fears that it will lose its unique lifestyle and to hamper such reforms, the people in the islands and Kerala are slamming the Patel administration for carrying out anti-people reforms. 

The protesters on the island demand the Center recall Patel and leaders of opposition parties including Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Congress's General Secretary KC Venugopal had come out against the Patel administration. Vijayan took to Twitter and wrote, "News reports from Lakshadweep are quite serious. Challenges imposed on their lives, livelihoods, and culture cannot be accepted. Kerala has a strong relationship, a long history of cooperation with Lakshadweep. Unequivocally condemn devious efforts to thwart it. Perpetrators should desist." 

Venugopal had written to President Ram Nath Kovind urging him to recall Khoda Patel. He said, "The local people fear that all these unilateral and anti-people decisions would ultimately lead to the destruction of traditional livelihood and unique culture of Lakshadweep. This has created huge unrest and protest among the local population there." Venugopal said that the Congress party has directed the Lakshadweep party in charge Tariq Anwar to organize people's protest against the anti-people policies rolled out by the administrator. Over the past few days, social media platforms have been witnessing the 'Save Lakshadweep' campaign with hundreds of social media users flay the measures introduced by Praful Khodha Patel.