On Friday, 28 May, Rawther Federation, a community organisation of Lakshadweep, filed a petition in the Kerala High Court seeking sufficient time for Lakshdweep residents to express their opinion on the newly introduced, controversial draft laws.
After Bharatiya Janata Party’s Praful Khoda Patel took charge as the administrator of the Union Territory, several draft reforms were introduced, including Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation, Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation, Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation and an amendment to the Lakshadweep Panchayat Staff Rules.
The petition requested the court “to ensure that the said laws are not imposed upon the citizens of Lakshadweep, compromising their fundamental rights.”
‘Citizens Should be a Part of the Legislative Process’
Highlighting the importance of public opinion, the petition stated that the “Citizens’ ability to participate in the legislative process is fundamental to democracy”. Considering the case of Lakshadweep, this assumes more importance...The Union Territory does not have a law-making body comprising elected representatives”.
The petition was filed by a resident of Lakshadweep, Shaik Mujeebu Rahman NPP of the Rawther Federation.
Protests Rage in Lakshadweep
Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s close confidant Praful Khoda Patel was appointed as administrator of the island late last year, the island has been witnessing unrest. Currently, protests are ongoing in Lakshadweep.
As protests peaked, the administration has introduced a ‘Goonda Act’ even though the UT has the lowest crime rate in the country. Protestors have accused the administration of introducing the act to suppress Lakshadweep’s ongoing agitation.
The administrator has also allegedly closed down all dairy farms operated by the animal husbandry department, thereby directly affecting the livelihood of livestock farmers. The administration also aims to ban slaughter, transport and trade of beef products, the protestors have alleged.
The islanders have also accused Patel of attempting to cut down on non-vegetarian menu in midday meals. It is to be noted that 99 per cent of the Lakshadweep population is Muslims.
Restrictions on alcohol sale and consumption which were previously in place have now been rolled back.
The Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation reform, once in effect, would allow for “orderly and progressive development of land in both urban and rural areas and to preserve and improve the amenities thereof”.
The regulation would also allow building, engineering, mining, quarrying and other such operations on the ecologically rich and sensitive islands for ‘development’.
In a region where fishing is the main source of income, the administration has reportedly demolished temporary sheds built by fishermen to store their nets and equipment citing the Coast Guard Act.
A new draft law has been introduced to prevent those who have more than two children to contest in local body elections. The new administration also intends to promote large-scale private tourism ventures, a move that would displace the local tourism sector, protestors allege.
Opposition parties including Indian National Congress and islanders have unanimously asked the central government to call back the administrator.