Residents of Lakshadweep embarked on a 12-hour hunger strike on Monday, June 7, to protest against three planned laws controlling tourism, livestock, and panchayat elections, which they believe will ruin the island's distinct culture and heritage.
"This is the first time all islands are observing such a protest. Though we have been assured repeatedly that local sentiments will be heard and addressed, the administrator is going ahead with his partisan and retrograde decisions," said UCK Thangal, one of the convenors of the Save Lakshadweep Forum, an organisation formed to channel increasing objections against the restrictions, reported Hindustan Times.
Residents of Lakshadweep have been opposing the Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation (2021), which aims to promote the islands as a major tourist destination. They claim that it will dismantle the island's character and identity since virgin woods cover 97 percent of the islands and 95 percent of the inhabitants are classified as a protected scheduled tribe.
They are also protesting the proposed legislation, which would restrict the slaughtering of bovine animals as well as their eating, storage, transit, or sale in island habitats. The majority of the population in the island are Muslims, and they believe the laws are directed at targeting their eating habits. They are also against the Lakshadweep Panchayat Regulation, 2021, which suggests disqualifying candidates in gram panchayat elections who have more than two children.
The drafted regulations have been characterised as "arbitrary" and disrespectful to the majority of people of the islands by several legislators, former officials, and artists
Last week, the Kerala Assembly passed a unanimous resolution seeking recall of administrator, and on Sunday, June 6, 93 retired bureaucrats wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, condemning Praful Khoda Patel, the new administrator's "partisan attitude" and implored him to protect the islands' unique culture and tradition.
The proposed laws, according to a letter to the PM prepared by a group of former bureaucrats, not only overlook the unique geography and community life of islands but also provides the administrator "arbitrary and draconian powers" to acquire, change, transfer, remove, or relocate islanders from their property. They further stated that the Goonda Act (Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation) is unjustified and uncalled for.
"According to the National Crime Records Bureau the crime rate in the island is very low compared to the rest of India, it has generated fear that the real purpose of the regulation is to smother dissent or protests against the policies and actions of the administrator," the letter said.
According to them, the proposed regulations are currently awaiting approval from the Union home ministry.