Eight members of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s youth wing in Lakshadweep have resigned in protest against administrator Praful Khoda Patel’s “undemocratic actions”, according to a letter shared by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Wednesday.
Patel has introduced a slew of regulations in the first five months of his tenure, triggering a massive outcry on social media. This includes a proposed cow slaughter ban, a preventive detention law in the Union Territory with one of the lowest crime rates in the country and a draft law proposing sweeping changes in land development regulations.
Patel, who had served as Gujarat home minister and is known to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, is carrying out the political agenda of the BJP to target Lakshadweep’s largely Muslim population, the Opposition leaders have alleged.
The Yuva Morcha leaders, including General Secretary PP Mohammad Hashim, sent their resignation to BJP’s National Vice President AP Abdullah Kutty on Monday. They warned that Patel was destroying the peace and tranquility of the island territory.
BJP’s Lakshadweep unit General Secretary HK Mohammed Kasim also said in a letter to Modi that Patel did not support or appreciate the efforts of the saffron party to reach out to people about the new regulations.
“It seems some of the grievances of the island people are genuine,” Kasim said. “It is always good to seek the opinion of people and their elected representatives before making decisions.”
Residents believe initiatives undertaken by Patel will fundamentally change the society and environment of the group of islands in the Arabian sea. Titled the Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation, 2021, the document has been criticised for trying to create a land development structure that is arbitrary, given the wide powers it gives the administration to take over private land.
Opposition leaders, some of whom have written to President Ram Nath Kovind seeking reversal of Patel’s decisions or his removal from the post, have called the administrator’s decisions “anti-people and authoritarian”. Kerala-based Congress leader VT Balram, among the first to publicise the discontent that is simmering in the Union Territory, said it was part of the “Sangh Parivar’s mission to turn the islands into another Kashmir”.
On August 5, 2019, the Narendra Modi government revoked Article 370 that stripped Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood, scrapped its separate constitution and removed inherited protections on land and jobs. To forestall any public protest, authorities imposed a security clampdown and total communications blackout.
Several leaders from Kerala have also written to the president against the tweaks made by Patel since he took over in December. They cited the traditional ties between Lakshadweep and Kerala.
On Monday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had also expressed solidarity with Lakshadweep residents. “The news from Lakshadweep is very serious,” he said, according to NDTV. “The situation there poses a challenge to the life and culture of the people inhabiting in the island. Such moves are unacceptable.”