New Delhi:June 11, 2021. Vikalp Sangam, a platform of alternatives in India with 70 civil society organisations as members, calls for the immediate repeal of the destructive legal and administrative measures in Lakshadweep. Vikalp Sangam feels that the actions of Mr. Praful Khoda Patel, Administrator of this union territory, are arbitrary and reckless, and will have irreversible ecological, social and cultural ramifications on the inhabitants of this rich and fragile island ecosystems.
“We call for the repeal of the regressive legal and administrative measures, the immediate recall of Mr. Patel, and a robust process of consultation to be initiated in the islands to create a development plan that’s in alignment with the ecological and cultural ethos of local communities,” said Ashish Kothari, one of the co-founders of Vikalp Sangam.
Lakshadweep is a peaceful territory with one of the lowest crime and poverty rates in India. The land rights of local communities are secure, and the age-old occupations of fisheries, small scale farming and related crafts have helped developed identities that are deeply intertwined with nature. The undemocratic plan for ‘development’ of the islands would result in the blatant violation of these rights and identity, and of Constitutional safeguards as also laws such as the Biological Diversity Act, 2002. The plans for on-shore and off-shore development of Lakshadweep for luxury tourism and to transform Kavaratti into a ‘smart city’ are rightly opposed by local communities for failing to recognize the scarce availability of land and fresh water. As a predominantly Muslim community, they also fear the forced assimilation with mainland India’s norms. This assault by the current regime is in line with its attempts to push majoritarianism and singular religious following in India.
Vikalp Sangam stands in solidarity with the people of Lakshadweep in their struggle for social justice and ecological rights, and demands the following:
- Immediately withdraw Lakshadweep’s Administrator, Mr. Praful Khoda Patel, and his replacement with an I.A.S officer as previously was the case
- Scrap plans for ‘development’ of Lakshadweep for high-end tourism and transforming Kavaratti into a ‘smart city’
- Impact assessment of social and environmental aspects of the proposed ‘development initiatives’ with transparent public hearings and consultations that involve local people, as well as others who have been working for conservation and people’s livelihoods in the region, to develop decentralized options for livelihoods & other needs.
- Restore the powers of Local Self Governments, taken away through an ordinance, with immediate effect.
- Withdraw retrograde measures, like relaxing alcohol restrictions and COVID-19 quarantine measures.
- Withdraw the ban on beef; respect the food culture of the local community
- Scrap the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation, 2021
- Roll back the move to by-pass the islander’s trade links with Baypore and move it to Mangalore; the administration must not tamper with the historical, economic and cultural connections of the islanders with Kerala.
- Stop the repressive measures and legal action of the UT administration against people peacefully protesting authoritarian measures.
Vikalp Sangam members urge the Home Minister, Mr. Amit Shah, to keep his promise to consult with the people of Lakshadweep and immediately engage in widespread public consultation processes across the islands.
Full statement is available at: https://vikalpsangam.org/article/statement-and-appeal-on-the-retrograde-moves-in-the-union-territory-of-lakshadweep/
Vikalp Sangam Core Group
SP Ravi: +91-9447518773
S. Anitha: +91-9447078113
Ashish Kothari: +91-8446002036
Avinash Kumar: +91-8882153664