The Tughlaq of Lakshadweep

Justice Markandey Katju-

Justice Markandey Katju

Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.

Lakshadweep is a group of about 35 beautiful islands, only 10 of which are inhabited, in the Arabian Sea, one hour’s flight from Cochin, Kerala. Its 65 thousand population is almost entirely Muslim. The capital is an island called Kavaratti.

Lakshadweep is a union territory, with an Administrator as its head, who was earlier always an IAS officer. However, in December 2020 Praful Khoda Patel, a BJP politician was appointed as the Administrator, and he has been on that position since then.

Patel has become very controversial of late by his autocratic behavior, like Muhammad bin Tughlaq.

Among Patel’s acts and proposals to which there is strong opposition are the following :

  1. He has proposed ban on the slaughter of cows, bulls and bullocks. But almost all islanders are Muslims, who have been eating beef for centuries, and it is part of their diet, being a source of cheap protein
  2. He has proposed the opening of liquor bars, to promote tourism. But till now no alcohol was ever permitted in the islands, and the people, who are almost all Muslims, strongly oppose the move
  3. The proposed Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulations, 2021 permit taking away anyone’s land for ‘development purpose’. Local people are apprehensive that their land may be taken away under this law
  4. Those having more than 2 children will be ineligible for contesting panchayat elections. But as it is the fertility rate in the islands is low.
  5. An anti gunda law is proposed, though there is little crime in the islands
  6. There is also criticism of the way covid was handled, resulting in many deaths.

The democratic way is that before such important changes are made there should be wide consultation and discussions with the local people, and their opinion be obtained.

But Patel is riding roughshod over the people of Lakshadweep, caring little for their views, like a whimsical autocrat.

No wonder he has been named the Muhammad bin Tughlaq of Lakshadweep