by- Europa Doley
This article is the third in a series of three articles trying to dive deeper into the issue of Lakshadweep and the repressive policies being proposed by the newly-appointed administration.
Lakshadweep comes under the jurisdiction of the Kerala High Court which is the nearest mainland state. The month of June, this year, saw multiple protests against the draft legislation on development which are basically ‘anti-people’ measures. On June 7, several people in Lakshadweep held underwater protests and staged a 12 hour long hunger strike demanding the Union Territory administrator, Praful Khoda Patel, to revoke LDAR (Lakshadweep Development and Authority Regulation). The islanders on June 14th greeted the administrator with black flags and protest placards wearing black robes, on his arrival in the islands. These protests were all organised under the ‘Save Lakshadweep’ forum. Even the legislative assembly of Kerala, in solidarity with Lakshadweep, recently adopted a motion demanding protection for the islander’s livelihood and immediate removal of Patel.
The Lakshadweep administration has been hell bent on shutting down the voices of those who protest against the unwieldy reforms. For instance, a sedition case was filed against a Lakshadweep-based filmmaker, Aisha Sultana, by the Kavaratti police station for allegedly spreading false news. During a TV debate, she called the administrator a ‘bioweapon’ holding him responsible for the sudden surge in COVID-19 cases in the islands. In response to the FIR filed against her, Sultana approached the Kerala High Court seeking anticipatory bail, stating that she had only criticised the administration for hastily removing the mandatory quarantine rule and it cannot be considered as a case of sedition under Section 124A IPC. The Kerala high court on 25th June granted her anticipatory bail as Justice Ashok Menon observed that by using the said term, she only intended to criticise the government on the recent modifications of the SOP and there was no motive to incite any kind of violence by her choice of word. Further, the court noted that the petitioner opposed the newly proposed reforms and there was no visible evidence in her statement to hold her accountable under section 153B of IPC. This judgement came as a ray of hope for the islanders who are still fighting against these reforms.
Disappointed with the judgements delivered by the Kerala HC regarding several litigations filed before the court against the decisions taken by Patel and amidst large number of protests, the Lakshadweep administration has mooted a proposal to shift its legal jurisdiction from the Kerala high court to the Karnataka high court, which is over 1000 kms away from the islands as compared to Kerala being just 400 kms far. Many lawyers based in Lakshadweep complained that it is a complete misappropriation of the post as an administrator of the UT. Further, the administration seems to ignore the fact that the mother tongue of the islanders is Malayalam and shifting of the jurisdiction to a completely new state will totally change the judicial processes because of the lack of common language and script between the people of islands and the judicial officers, if sent from the Karnataka HC. This would also technically lead to denial of justice which is clearly undemocratic. However, the administration categorically denied the claim.
Another hopeful move by the Kerala high court was on Tuesday, June 22, as the court stayed orders proposed by the Lakshadweep administration on closing down dairy farms and removing meat products including chicken from the midday meals for school children. The administration released these orders two days after the news of their mooted proposal to shift the legal jurisdiction to the Karnataka HC, spread across the country. One of the petitioners of the PIL filed against these orders, mentioned that Patel’s priority, after he took charge as the administrator, was to close down the farms run by The Animal Husbandry Department and in the process attacking the food habits of the islanders.
The agenda behind closing down the dairy farms in Lakshadweep is to force the islanders to buy milk products imported from Gujarat. With this proposed rule, he aims to impose a total ban on the sale and the purchase of beef and other beef products. It is not surprising that such law is forced upon an area which is majorly populated by the Muslim community. This forceful saffronisation of a region is dangerous.
The Animal Preservation Regulation, 2021, popularly known as the beef ban which was introduced in late February reflects the Centre’s attitude towards a certain population of the country on the basis of their food habits and the religion they follow. Thus, it becomes necessary as a citizen of a democratic country to stand with the people of Lakshadweep in their fight against such undemocratic and unconstitutional reforms in the name of ‘development’ proposed by the Patel administration.
Kractivist’s campaign stands in support of #SaveLakshadweep. We demand the government to take cognisance of the demands of the residents, locals and experts and take back the arbitrary regulations that threaten the cultural, socio-political and ecological fabric of Lakshadweep. We stand by the people of Lakshadweep and attempt to amplify their demands with a twitter storm on Monday, 28 June from 5 pm to 8 pm. Join us in our efforts to keep the national and global attention on Lakshadweep.
– Europa is an art enthusiast, an occasional reader and a musicophile. She’s doing her Master’s in Gender Studies from Ambedkar University Delhi and her interest revolves around the issues faced by marginalised communities. Currently, she is interning at kractivist.org