KOCHI: The central government, instead of protecting the ethnicity of Lakshadweep, is denying the islanders’ right to preserve the cultural heritage of the archipelago, feel the youngsters from the Union Territory who are now in Kerala. After their colleges were closed, many students stayed back in different parts of the state, especially in Kochi, Kozhikode, Malappuram and Thiruvananthapuram.
The youngsters fear that unless they take out a major protest, their right over their land will be taken away and their diversity and peace will be lost. They also feel corporate giants will take over their land, already small in size, using the land reforms.
Firaasath Malige, a BA Economics second-year student at SH College, Thevara, and hailing from Minicoy, said that when the country got independence, they were a very diverse community. “There are different kinds of ethnicities in our land. India got united because our national leaders promised us that the country will be inclusive and will protect all tribal ethnicities. That is why we call it ‘Unity in Diversity’. However, now the Union government is denying us our right to protect our ethnicity,” he said.
“The new land reforms are said to be for outsiders to reach Lakshadweep, do developmental activities and convert the island like the Maldives. But the commoners on the island feel the population and land available in the Maldives are very different from Lakshadweep. Here, already all the lands are either farmlands or are being occupied by residents. People are ready to cooperate and sell land if they are dealt with respect, but administrator Praful Patel is ruling us like an absolute power centre,” he added.
“People do not understand the need for a Goonda Act here and it is very obvious that it was introduced to torture anyone who refuses to obey him (Patel). The land reforms should be carried out in a sustainable way, else it is going to harm the land as well as the people,” Firaasath said.Ihsan K I, a BA sociology student at SH College, Thevara, is from Kalpeni island. He is currently staying at his brother’s house in Kozhikode.
“The cruelty meted out to people of Lakshadweep right now cannot be justified in any way, even if it is in the name of tourism or development. If they are genuinely interested in development, roads are not a priority for us right now. We have enough roads, considering our population. The maximum population of an island here would be 10,000. The authorities speak about tourism development and at the same time even the local staff in the tourism sector are being terminated,” Ihsan said. He added the administrator was not promoting local businesses, but wooing corporates.
“They want to promote two agendas --- Hindutva and Corporate. Lakshadweep cannot be compared with Kashmir. We have not permitted even the political Islamists here. We do not have terrorists here. In the last 30 years, not even a single murder case was reported from here,” he added.
The news channels and entertainment platforms on the island are also very linked to Kerala. They follow the political developments in the state and some of the politicians here are their favourite. Even the youths who study in the state are part of the student politics of Kerala.
Mohammed Naveen, a third-year BTech student of NIT Calicut, hails from Kalpeni. He had completed his schooling in Thiruvananthapuram and moved to Kozhikode for graduation. Naveen said the Test Positivity Rate in Lakshadweep was 66 per cent and so a lockdown was implemented.
“As soon as the lockdown is over, all parties here will unite against the tyrannies of the administrator. We are in consultation with high-profile lawyers to seek legal help to save the land and people here. A mass petition, containing the signatures of the citizens here, will be filed and 10 lakh emails will be sent to the President of India,” said Naveen.