Residents of Lakshadweep held placards outside their homes, lying on charpoys and even underwater as part of a 12-hour hunger strike today to protest against controversial new rules planned for the islands in the Arabian Sea.
Here is your guide to the controversy
Critics say the decisions have spread anger and fear in the pristine archipelago of 70,000 people, known for its forests, white beaches and emerald sea.
In one of the most fiercely opposed decisions, the administrator has introduced a draft detention law — the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities — which gives the administration sweeping powers to detain anyone for up to a year.
Residents say the proposed “Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation (2021)” will destroy the unique culture and tradition of the islands and grant arbitrary powers to the administration to acquire land.
There is also anger over a proposed ban on the killing of bovine animals and the consumption, storage, transport or sale of cattle. Lakshadweep’s residents, who are mostly Muslim, feel these rules target their food habits.
Another trigger is the Lakshadweep Panchayat Regulation, which says candidates with more than two children cannot contest gram panchayat elections.
The changes have provoked immense local anger and their protests have been backed by various parties. Many MPs, bureaucrats and prominent voices have spoken up against the changes. The Kerala assembly has passed a unanimous resolution seeking the recall of the administrator.
The draft laws are with the Union Home Ministry for approval. Last week, Lakshadweep MP Mohammad Faizal told the media he was assured by Home Minister Amit Shah that no law would be enforced in Lakshadweep against the wishes of its people.
Yesterday, 93 retired top bureaucrats wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticising the “partisan attitude” of the new administrator and called his decisions “disturbing”.
The letter alleged that the rules not just ignore the unique geography and community life of islands, but also give “arbitrary and draconian powers to the administrator” to acquire, alter, transfer and remove or relocate islanders from their property.