Residents of Lakshadweep observed a 12-hour hunger strike on Monday to protest Administrator Praful Khoda Patel's plans to bring in a slew of reforms, which they termed 'anti-people' and 'anti-democratic'.
Residents from all the 10 inhabited islands in the archipelago participated in the protest organised by the Save Lakshadweep Forum (LSF).
Life in Lakshadweep came to a standstill as all shops, except those providing emergency services, remained closed from 6 am to 6pm.
Residents - from young children to senior citizens - were seen holding placards and banners in front of their houses.
'Repeal all anit-people and anti-democratic reforms. We are participating in the people’s hunger strike,' read most of the posters. 'Recall Praful Patel,' read other posters.
Some youngsters in Agatti island took a dive into the sea holding posters. "People's hunger strike against the Administrator's anti-people policies," read one poster. "Save Lakshadweep, Save democracy," read another.
Social media was flooded with #SaveLakshadweep with the islanders posting pictures of their protests.
Lakshadweep residents have been up in arms after Patel mulled to bring in many insensitive administrative reforms.
Monday's event is the first major protest in the Union Territory against the proposed regulations.
The new regulations include a proposed cow slaughter ban, a preventive detention law (Lakshadweep has one of the lowest crime rates in the country). But the most controversial among them is the draft law that seeks to bring in sweeping changes to land use patterns. Titled the Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation, 2021, the draft allows the administration to take over private land.
Kerala Assembly recently passed a resolution urging the Centre to call back the administrator.
Protests in Kerala
In Kochi, the United Democratic Front parliamentarians from Kerala staged a protest in front of the Lakshadweep Administrator's Office in solidarity with the islanders.
Indian Union Muslim League (IUML )MP E T Mohammed Basheer, who inaugurated the protest, termed as "undemocratic" the actions of the administrator and demanded withdrawal of regulations and executive orders passed after May 12.
All MPs from Kerala, except Rahul Gandhi, K Muraleedharan, K Sudhakaran, Kodikunnil Suresh, Sashi Tharoor, Adoor Prakash and N K Premachandran, took part in the protest.
AIYF, the youth wing of the CPI, a major ally in the LDF government in Kerala, also protested in front of the Administrator's office.
Migrant workers leave Lakshadweep
Meanwhile, migrant workers, including Keralites, have begun to leave Lakshadweep with the adminstration enforcing the order that asked non-islanders to leave Lakshadweep.
Over ten thousand workers from outside were at the islands for various jobs. Apart from Kerala, workers from states such as Tamil Nadu, Bengal, Odisha and Assam are among these. They were mainly involved in construction activities, tailoring, and salon jobs.
Migrant workers formed the bulk of the passengers on board the ship that left Kavaratti for Kochi on Saturday.
The Save Lakshadweep Forum alleged that there were ulterior motives behind ousting the non-islanders and it was an attempt to isolate the people of the archipelago.
The Lakshadweep administration had on May 29 introduced new travel restrictions. As per this, entry permit to the island will be issued only through the ADM.
For those who had arrived earlier on the island with permission, the last day to leave was Sunday. If they have to continue their stay on the islands, they need to submit applications via the departments concerned and a fresh permit will have to be obtained from the ADM. Not only is this difficult, these requests mostly get turned down due to the Covid lockdown and night curfew.
Workers are issued permits with three-month validity. Earlier, it used to be given for six months but later cut short to three months. Until the beginning of this year, Kavaratti alone had about 5,000 migrant workers.