Under attack over its new regulations, the Lakshadweep administration on Thursday defended the measures, saying the reform push was aimed at making the island another Maldives in two decades, as Rahul Gandhi sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention in withdrawing the "anti-people" policies.
The ruling CPI(M)in Kerala promised to move an Assembly resolution and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin sought Administrator Praful Khoda Patel's recall.
The island administration denied the opposition charges and insisted its reform push was aimed at transforming Lakshadweep into another Maldives, a tourist hub.
Rejecting allegations that measures were taken without taking people of the islands into confidence, Lakshadweep District Collector S Asker Ali said persons with vested interests and those involved in illegal business were carrying out propaganda against the administration.
In Delhi, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi wrote to Modi seeking his intervention in the withdrawal of new regulations in Lakshadweep.
All this was being done by the new Administrator Patel in the guise of development and maintaining law and order.
"I request you to intervene in this matter and ensure that the above mentioned orders are withdrawn. The people of Lakshadweep deserve a developmental vision that respects their way of life and reflects their aspirations," he said.
Noting that the island's pristine natural beauty and its unique confluence of cultures have drawn people for generations, Gandhi said the custodians of its heritage seek to safeguard the archipelago for posterity.
"However, their future is threatened by the anti-people policies announced by the Administrator of Lakshadweep..."
"The Administrator has unilaterally proposed sweeping changes without duly consulting elected representatives or the public. The people of Lakshadweep are protesting against these arbitrary actions," the former Congress chief said.
Gandhi described Patel's proposed changes to regulations like the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation, the Lakshadweep Animals Preservation Regulation and lifting of restrictions on sale of alcohol as deliberate assault on the cultural and religious fabric of the local community.
"Under the guise of development and maintaining law and order in a low crime union territory, the draconian regulations penalise dissent and undermine grassroots democracy," Gandhi, whose Congress has been demanding the immediate recall of Patel, said.
The ruling CPI(M) in Kerala also came to the support of its 'brothers' in Lakshadweep, promising to move a resolution in the state Assembly on the matter.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said steps have been taken to bring an unanimous resolution in the Assembly.
Addressing reporters in Thiruvananthapuram, he said everyone has strong sentiments over this issue because the people of Lakshadweep are "our brothers."
M B Rajesh, Kerala Speaker, said Vijayan himself has proposed the resolution.
"The government will move the resolution in the ongoing session. I hope the opposition also will not have any objection and they will support it as many of its members have already raised such a demand. So, there is unanimity on the matter," he told PTI.
Earlier, Congress legislator Shafi Parambil had written to the Speaker and the CM, urging them to move a joint resolution in the House expressing the state's solidarity with the islanders.
Meanwhile, the CPI(M) mouthpiece People's Democracy said that in Muslim majority Lakshadweep, Patel's policies reveal "shades of the Kashmir experience" but the "real model" being pursued is the "Gujarat one."
"In a Muslim majority territory, Patel's policies reveal shades of the Kashmir experience, but the real model being pursued is the Gujarat one-a developmental model destructive of the environment, the imposition of Hindutva values on a minority community, ruthless suppression of dissent and a callous disregard for human life during a pandemic," it said.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Stalin urged Modi to recall Patel for imposing 'anti-people' laws in the union territory.
The action of Patel in forcibly bringing in "anti- people" regulations to "alienate Muslims" living there is causing anguish, Stalin tweeted.
The Prime Minister's Office should intervene in the matter and ease him out of the office of administrator, he said, adding "our country's strength is pluralism."
Under fire from the opposition, Lakshadweep administration said it was laying the foundation for the future of islands in a planned way and to develop it on the lines of Maldives in two decades.
"Lakshadweep is very peaceful. It will remain peaceful. Now also in the islands it is very peaceful," Collector Ali told a press conference at Kochi.
On charges by opposition parties that Patel unilaterally lifted restrictions on the use of alcohol, he said liquor permits were given for some select tourist establishments and it was meant only for tourists.
On the decision to ban cow slaughter, he said as many states in the country have enacted cow protection laws, so a law has also been introduced in Lakshadweep on similar lines.
"Only those who are associated with its illegal business and those who have personal interests are propagating agains this legislation," he claimed.
Regarding the decision to exclude meat products from the menu of the mid-day meal for students, Ali said it was a policy decision and in the mid-day meal menu, non-veg components like fish and eggs are kept.
This decision was taken by a government committee after consulting many people including fishermen.
Justifying the decision to introduce the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act (PASA) in the islands, he said this is to check incidents like drug abuse and increasing cases relating to sexual abuse of children.
"So when we plan to develop this island holistically we cannot compromise on the Law and Order fronts. Lakshadweep is very peaceful. But now few cases are emerging," he said, responding to queries on various regulations of the new administration.
He further said the administration wanted to develop the islands like Maldives in the next 10 or 20 years. Also, the islands are very critical from a security point of view.
"Basically, we wanted to prepare ourselves for the requirements of the future considering the past experience and present emerging situations," Ali said.
The official said the UT administration has taken steps to introduce freight from Mangalore port in addition to Kochi, to ensure the availability of essential commodities on the islands located at the northern end as they are closer to Mangalore Port.
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