The BJP are at it again, unable to take Tamil Nadu or Kerala, they've set their sights further South on Muslim-majority Lakshadweep. This is nothing more than demography change repackaged once again as "economic prosperity".

Lakshadweep, an archipelago of 36 islands, 10 of which are inhabited by a Muslim majority demographic, is around 200 km off the southwestern coast of the Indian Peninsula.

Peaceful protests took place on the Lakshadweep Islands, a small union territory off the coast off Kerala, India, in response to the implementation of new regulations that would change the lives of the locals.

Since December, when the administration fell in to the hands of Patel (after the passing of the previous administrator), a myriad of new laws have been pushed, with no consultation of elected representatives and furthermore no consideration of local and indigenous people. The appointment of Patel was entirely strategic by the BJP in a push toward bringing about demography change through a candidate who has overseen such programmes in his past.

His latest controversy surrounds the implementation of reformed laws in Lakshadweep, masked as economic prosperity, but reeking of demography change.

Capitalism Over Community

According to the BJP and Patel, the Development Authority Regulation has been introduced to pave way for "orderly" and "progressive" land development in both urban and rural areas. This will essentially fulfil their dream to turn Lakshadweep into a new tourist destination, an economic boost, India will have its own Maldives. However, the act details that "development" includes building, engineering, mining, quarrying and allowing for under-land operations, something that'll shock the already fragile ecological system of the tropical islands. The livelihoods of the islanders is bound to the ecological system, if the environment is challenged then it will be felt by the two main forms of trade (coconut fibre and fishing), it's a domino effect.

Additionally, the act gives the authorities all the power over all the land. Government and authorities have the power to decide what is "inadequate" and in need of development, seize the land despite who is living on it/who it belongs to, and carry out those developments. Farmers and fisherfolk have no autonomy on the lands they have owned and lived off of generation after generation. Patel has already successfully done this in the two other union territories he oversees.

Cultural Reconstruction

Discontentment has been spread amongst the people, whose identity and way of life has been challenged since Patel's arrival, specifically by the Animal Preservation Regulation (beef ban). Those found with beef can now be jailed between seven to ten years, or fined between one to five lakh rupees (up to £5000).

As well as a beef ban, the plan to introduce alcohol into a majority dry Union Territory, where alcohol is both culturally and religiously not consumed deepens the discontentment amongst the people.

These changes, however they are justified, whether for the sake of the health of the island or just to broaden tourism opportunities, do not bode well with the islanders.

Lakshadweep, like other union territories and states, like Jammu and Kashmir, like Assam, has been left alone, arguably ignored by central government. It's now only been infiltrated by the BJP as part of it's tirade to spread demography change. It's customs, traditions, it's way of life is vastly different from mainland India, and has been that way for centuries. For the BJP to come in to the island on it's capitalist tirade, as well as being blatantly desperate to stamp the island with it's Hindutva ideology, under the guise of doing what's best for the locals, is not only disingenuous, but immoral.

Patel's plan to impose a law prohibiting those with more than two children from participating in local elections will immediately disqualify many already-prominent political figures in Lakshadweep amongst the locals.

Categorising to Otherise

Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation, also known as the Goonda Act allows for authorities to detain anyone for up to a year without public disclosure. The first thing that needs to be understood is that why is an act like this needed in a union territory with a practically non-existent crime rate?

To this day, Lakshadweep has the lowest crime rate in all of India.

The narrative inferring that Lakshadweep has ISIS and drug trafficking ties is not only baseless but is the perfect excuse to demonise the Muslim majority islanders. It completely follows the Hindutva ideology, to re-imagine and construct a "Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan" India.

It's vital to remember, this is the only other Muslim-majority territory in India other than India-occupied Kashmir, where the BJP are also creating demography change,

These proposals threaten and violate land rights, worker's rights, the ecology of the islands in a world that's going through global warming, as well as the culture and identity of the indigenous inhabitants of the island, who are classified with Scheduled Class status.

Praful Patel, Administrator of the Union Territories of Dadra and Nagar and Daman Diu, and now Lakshadweep has a cloudy past, one saturated with bullying intimidation and a severe disregard for the people he is appointed to oversee, particularly those of a Dalit/Adivasi background. He served as Home Minister of Gujarat under Modi, when the PM was Chief Minster of the state. This close tie to Modi as well as an immediate family connection to the RSS is what has allowed him to be appointed as the Administrator of three union territories, despite not having a particularly successful political career up until this point. So far Patel has used his power to shut down local businesses within his jurisdiction and channel them back to to his fellow Modi cronies in Gujarat. This is what makes him the perfect man for the job.

Praful Patel with Modi

In 2019, just before the union territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu were scheduled to go to polls, he was issued a notice by the Election Commission of India on grounds of intimidation. In the same year in Daman, Patel issued "official looking" documents ordering the confiscation of land belonging to Adivasi fishermen for generations, relaying that their homes would be demolished to make room for a new development. Protests broke out. to only be shut down. Peaceful assembly of four or more persons, slogan-shouting and the use of loudspeakers across the entire district was banned. Patel ordered the conversion of two High Schools to be made in to temporary jails for those who protested. Innocent people were jailed, the development went ahead, and most fishermen who were evicted were not rehomed, left traumatised and homeless.

Only this year, tribal rights advocate and Lokh Saba MP Mohanbhai Sanjibhai Delkar took his own life, leaving behind a 15 page suicide note. The note detailed the injustice, bias and insult he had experienced, felt and endured from other political figures. Praful Patel was specifically named. First Information Report (FIR) under Section 306 (abetment of suicide), 389 (Putting person in fear of accusation of offence, in order to commit extortion) and 506 (criminal intimidation) and sections of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 was filed against the Administrator.

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