Administration issues clarification on protests and arrests

The Praful Khoda Patel-led administration of the Union Territory of Lakshadweep said on Thursday it was not using the police to quell democratic protests by islanders against a transport crisis in the archipelago, The Indian Express reported.

In a statement, the administration said it arrested some protesters for violating restraining orders.

The administration also described media reports attributing motives to police action as false and fabricated, PTI reported.

A severe transport crisis has hit Lakshadweep after the administration cut the number of passenger ships between the islands and the mainland. The archipelago has 36 islands, but 10 of them are inhabited.

Of a population of around 65,000, the majority travel to the mainland, mainly to Kerala, to study or work and therefore require passenger ships to travel, according to The Indian Express. However, the number of ships connecting the islands and the mainland was reduced from seven to two.

Residents of Lakshadweep have staged protests against the depleted fleet of passenger ships.

On Thursday, the administration said it was committed to the overall development of the islands by “launching various programs and policies”, PTI reported.

“Local people have wholeheartedly supported the administration for the development efforts,” the statement said. “However, in a bid to denigrate the administration’s image, create resentment and spread rumors among the people of Lakshadweep, some elements have used social media platforms, print and electronic media and infused information false and fabricated.”

The administration said some protesters were arrested by Lakshadweep police for violating restraining orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which prohibits gatherings of four or more people, PTI reported. .

“Protests that violate the law with the aim of creating a psychosis of fear against the machinery of government in order to wean genuine support from the people for the social welfare measures of the Lakshadweep administration must be dealt with by the police to enforce the law,” he said. said.

Administrator Praful Khoda Patel, a former Gujarat MP from the Bharatiya Janata party, is often seen as indifferent to the problems of Muslims, who make up almost 90% of the island’s population.

Patel has been at the center of controversy over a host of regulations, including a proposed cow slaughter ban, introduced in Lakshadweep last year.

In December, the administration also moved to change the weekly holiday for Union Territory schools from Friday to Sunday. For decades, schools in Lakshadweep remained closed on Fridays so students could offer namaz.

Asked about the ongoing protests over the transport crisis in Lakshadweep, Patel said The Indian Express that the islanders were “lost”.

“What is happening in the name of protests is a political stunt,” he alleged. “Similar to the heavy passenger load on trains during peak seasons, the holiday season is to blame for the increased demand for services and associated difficulties.”

He said the administration has taken steps to resolve the issue.

“The Shipping Corporation of India is currently repairing a major ship [MV Kavaratti] after it caught fire,” Patel said. “We have succeeded in effectively facilitating the movement of people by favoring the movement of students and seniors.

He said his aim was to advance the island, which had not developed much since independence, reported The Indian Express.

“There weren’t many options, even for drinking water,” he said. “We have taken aggressive steps to improve the island during my last year and a half in office.”

The administration has built schools, colleges, a polytechnic and a nursing institution so that residents do not have to travel to Kerala to study, he added.

“In this short period of time, we have also started admissions,” Patel said, as quoted by the newspaper. “Along with this, we have taken important initiatives for tourism, sea protection walls, ice factories and other things. Two major airport expansion projects are currently underway.