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Recall Lakshadweep’s “Authoritarian” Administrator: Opposition MPs From Kerala To President

Opposition MPs from Kerala allege that new administrator Praful Khoda Patel, a former Gujarat minister when Narendra Modi was chief minister, is destroying local culture and traditional life and is working to implement Modi’s agenda of handing over the island to private and corporate groups by diluting the land laws as the Central government did in Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019.

Syed Khalique Ahmed

NEW DELHI—Several Opposition MPs from Kerala-ranging from Congress to IUML to CPI(M), besides Lakshdweep’s NCP MP Mohammed Faisal-have demanded recall of the new administrator of Union Territory of Lakshdweep Praful Khoda Patel on the ground of his “anti-people” policies threatening the “culture and traditional life of the people of the island”.

The MPs, who have written letters to the Centre and demanded calling back of the new administrator, are CPI(M)’s Elamaram Kareem, Indian Union Muslim League’s E T Mohammed Basheer, Congress party MPs T N Prathapan and Hibi Eden, and Congress general secretary K C Venugopal.

The opposition leaders called Patel as “authoritarian” and his policies and decisions as “undemocratic and anti-people”.

The opposition politicians have sent letters to President of India Ram Nath Kovind as also Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging them to immediately recall the new administrator of Lakshdweep due to “widespread protest against him because of his policies”.

Kerala unit of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind(JIH), a pan-India socio-cultural organisation, has also opposed the actions of the new administrator. Its president I M Abdul Azeez said that the action not only harmed local culture and traditional life but also are aimed at killing livelihood sources of the people.

Patel, a former minister of state for home in Gujarat from August 2010 to December 2012 when Narendra Modi (now prime minister) was chief minister, is among 9 persons booked for their role in MP Mohan Delkar’s suicide in Mumbai in February this year. Patel, who is administrator of union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, was given additional charge of Lakshdweep administrator in December 2020 after the demise of Dineshwar Sharma.

A number of decisions taken by Patel ever since he took over as administrator in December 2020 has also angered Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who has strongly criticised Patel’s actions construed to be aimed at severing Lakshadweep’s ties with Kerala.

Stating that Kerala has long-ties with Lakshadweep, Vijayan asked the Lakshadweep administrator to “keep away from his narrow-minded approach”.

 “Such acts cannot be allowed,” Kerala CM told mediapersons while reacting to actions of Patel.

The action of the new administrator that has angered the local population include total ban on beef and very harsh punishment for violators on the pretext of animal preservation without consulting the local population and their elected representatives, changing the land-related rules allowing outsiders to buy land in Lakshdweep as the Centre has done in Jammu and Kashmir, lifting of prohibition on liquor in the island without any demand coming from the locals and the administrator directly taking control of administrative powers of elected zilla panchayats in matters of education, health care, agriculture, animal husbandry and fisheries and and the Lakshadweep Anti Social Activities Regulation-2021.

The total population of Lakshdweep as per 2011 census is 64,470 and 62,270 or 96.58 per cent are Muslims, with Hindus accounting for 2.77 per cent and Christians 0.49 per cent.

Speaking to India Tomorrow over from Kozhikode, CPI(M) Rajya Sabha MP Elamaram Kareem alleged that “Patel is working on (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi’s agenda of handing over the island to private parties as he (Modi) did in Jammu and Kashmir allowing Ambanis to buy land by making changes in land-related. In Lakshadweep where outsiders were not allow to buy land to protect the interest of the local communities, Patel has diluted the land-related rules enabling corporates to acquire large tracts of land.” He said that Patel is on a spree to pass news orders “without being answerable to the people.”

“After 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,” Kareem said.

“What Patel is doing, is to destroy traditional life and cultural diversity of the local population”, he said, demanding the Centre must immediately divest him of the charge of Lakshadweep’s administrator and call him back.

He also accused Patel’s “unplanned and unscientific” decisions responsible for surge in COVID cases in Lakshdweep where, according to Kareem, was not even a single case of COVID reported in 2020.

In his letter to the President, he said, “It can be seen that all the orders and promulgations are issued with an ulterior motive to destroy the traditional life and cultural diversity of the people of Lakshaweep.”

“All of the regulations were promulgated without an iota of considerations towards the people or their choice of food and livelihood,” the letter further said.

Drawing attention towards “undemocratic and anti-people regulation in the name of ‘animal preservation, which intends to ban slaughter, transportation, selling or buying of beef products,” the CPI(M) MP pointed out that “this is a blatant onslaught on the people who depend upon dairying and growing of bovine as a means of livelihood”.

Stating that the Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation, 2021, has destroyed the livelihood of the local population, Kareem said that “neither the island community nor the local bodies in the island ever raised such a demand and they were also not consulted when such regulations were being framed.”

Kareem also objected to termination of services of hundreds of casual and contract labourers employed in different departments of Lakshadwep. “Everyday orders are being issued to terminate the casual and contractual staffs from different government departments. About 38 aaganwadis have been closed. 190 people have been terminated from the tourism department. School lunch makers and sports teachers have been sacked. Many have also been expelled from the Department of Animal welfare and the Department of Agriculture,” he said, adding “all this has caused great concern and suffering among the islanders during this pandemic time.”

Stating that there was restriction on the use of alcohol in Lakshadweep due to “cultural and religious reasons”, Kareem said in the letter that “the current administrator unilaterally lifted that restriction despite repeated request from the people not to do so.”

“This decision is also intended to destroy harmony and trample the religious beliefs of the people living there”, he said in the letter.

Pointing that fishing is the main source of income for majority of the islanders, the CPI(M) MP said that demolition of fishermen’s shed where they used to keep their nets and other equipment has caused huge loss to the workers.

Taking strong objection to administrator’s decision to divert all cargos to Mangalore port by ending a very old trade relation between Lakshadweep and Beypore port of Kerala use Kareem alleged that “this decision is aimed at severing Lakshadweep’s ties with Kerala.” Most of the residents of the island are culturally and linguistically Malayalis.

“In the name of reforms and schemes, the new administrator is trying to completely destroye the traditional life of the people of Lakshadweep”, he said in the letter.

“All these unilateral, undemocratic and anti-people decisions have created huge unrest among the people and the whole Lakshadweep wants this administrator to leave the island,” Kareem pointed out.

Congress MP Hibi Eden, in his letter to President of India, objected to the Lakshadweep Anti- Social Activities Regulation-2021 being brought by the new administrator, saying that such harsh laws were unwarranted because the island has very low crime rate. He said that many clauses of the law are likely to be misused by authorities.

Eden also raised questions over decision to open bars and ban on beef and dropping non-vegetarian food from the menu of aaganwadi children. Congress general secretary K C Venugopal described decisions of Praful Patel as “authoritarian measures” and demanded his immediate recall.

NCP MP from Lakshadweep Mohammed Faisal said that “anti-people” draft notifications were being brought when the people were not in a position to even react to it because of the prevailing COVID situation.

“We need a permanent administrator who should be people-friendly”, Faisal demanded.

IUML MP E T Mohammed Basheer, in a separate letter to President of India, urging him to remove the “reckless administrator” imposing “despotic and undemocratic measures”on the people of Lakshadweep. IUML is also sending a delegation of Kerala MPs to gather first hand information about the issues in Lakshadweep.

Praful Patel could not be contacted despite several phone calls made to him.

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