‘Similar to Kashmir’: Locals on Indian archipelago decry BJP official’s ‘anti-Muslim legislation’
Locals on an Indian archipelago — Lakshadweep islands — have expressed resentment at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appointed administrator Praful Khoda Patel’s recent policies which they consider as “anti-Muslim” and a way to “settle outsiders” on the islands, similar to the Narendra Modi-led government’s policy in Kashmir, it emerged on Wednesday.
The recently proposed regulation for the creation of a Lakshadweep Development Authority (LDA) has been widely resented by the local population, according to a report by Indian publication The Hindu which said that hundreds of islanders had written to the administrator for the draft regulation to be withdrawn.
“The regulation empowers the government, identified as the administrator, to constitute Planning and Development Authorities under it to plan the development of any area identified as having ‘bad layout or obsolete development’,” the report said.
The law would give the administrator the power to remove or relocate islanders from their properties if required by planning or development activities, according to Arab News. Around 93 per cent of the island’s population of 70,000 are Muslims, the report said.
“The island community is a close-knit group with families living in close proximity. The regulation will destroy the way of life practised by them for generations” an islander told The Hindu.
“The way the government is trying to settle outsiders in Kashmir, I feel a similar design is at work on the islands,” Dr Ayshabi Kalpeni, chief medical officer at the Life Care Hospital in Malappuram, Kerala, was quoted as saying by Arab News.
However, this is not the only controversial regulation introduced by Patel — who was Modi’s home minister in Gujarat before he became prime minister — with previous decisions including a proposed ban on the slaughter of cows and the consumption of beef; draft legislation that would disqualify people with more than two children from contesting local elections; and the introduction in January of the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act (Pasa), a draconian law under which individuals can be detained, without any public disclosure, for up to a year, according to the report.
“Our existence has come to be questioned with these decisions and we feel that the government is working with the same majoritarian mindset here as it is working elsewhere in the country,” Kalpeni added.
Politicians and activists in Kerala — the closest Indian state at a distance of 240 kilometres — have launched a “Save Lakshadweep” campaign along with the islanders.
“The whole idea of the BJP is to change the demography of Lakshadweep and create another Kashmir in southern India,” Tasleem Rehmani, a member of the Kerala-based Muslim Political Council of India, was quoted as saying by Arab News.
K. A. Shaji, a political analyst in Kerala, told Arab News the proposed ban on cow slaughter is a “clear expression of Patel’s vindictive agenda targeting Muslims”.
“I do believe this is a move to weaken the Muslim demography on the islands and to open up the islands to private corporations from the mainland,” he said.
Meanwhile, the main opposition party — Congress — has written a letter to the Indian president demanding Patel’s removal and “immediate withdrawal of [his] ‘unilateral and anti-people’ orders”, The Economic Times reported.
Author: Dawn News | Publication: Dawn