Thousands of Lakshadweep residents to observe 12-hour hunger strike on 7 June as protests intensify

Protesting the administration’s undemocratic and dictatorial reforms, thousands of Lakshadweep people living on the islands and mainland India will observe a twelve-hour long hunger strike, following COVID-19 protocol, starting from 6 am to 6 pm on Monday.

“Small children and people with a medical condition or under treatment would stay out of the strike. More than 50,000 people will take part in the strike,” Salim KP, Save Lakshadweep Forum social media convenor, told Maktoob.

The decision to go on hunger strike was taken at the meeting of the Save Lakshadweep Forum held in Kochi on Friday.

“Every house in Lakshadweep will be part of the struggle. People are instructed to hold placards demanding to save Lakshadweep, hoist black flags and upload the photos on social media handles of Save Lakshadweep Forum,” he said. The Lakshadweep Vyapari Samithi, roughly translated as Lakshadweep Merchants’ Association, will also will take part in the strike by closing down their shops from 6 am to 6 pm,” Salim added.

The Save Lakshadweep Forum consists of representatives from all political parties in Lakshadweep, including the BJP, and cultural activists. A forum was formed in the Panchayat level in each island to coordinate the programs of the Save Lakshadweep Forum. The committee, headed by the chairperson of the Village Dweep Panchayat, consists of members from all political parties. An advisory committee comprising the social activists, eminent personalities, intellectuals are constituted on each island.  

“The main demand of the SLF is to repeal the contentious draft regulations including the LDAR and the Panchayat regulation act. The Forum also demands the administration to revoke the orders including the move to deport the permit holders from the mainland,” UCK Thangal, joint convenor of the Save Lakshadweep Forum and former chief councilor, told Maktoob.

In the meeting held at Kochi, the Forum also decided to form a legal cell to challenge the anti-people draft legislation in Kerala high court.

“The main intention behind the formation of the legal cell is to unify all the cases filed against the administrative reforms and to challenge it legally under the Lakshadweep Forum. A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and two writ petitions filed individually against the reforms got disposed of earlier. So the legal cell will request the islanders not to file cases individually but to fight them through the cell. The cell will also prepare a detailed memorandum on the procedural violation and other legal violations in the draft regulations,” Save Lakshadweep Forum member Advocate Attabi told Maktoob. The forum instructed Lakshadweep Bar Association president Ajas Shabir to coordinate with the advocates in Lakshadweep and the mainland to form the legal cell. 

Meanwhile, seniors officials sent by the administration to all islands to talk to the people about the draft received a cold welcome. “The elected representatives and the people in many islands had decided not to cooperate with the officials. The Panchayat members demand the District Collector to apologise for maligning the islanders and submitted a petition to repeal the undemocratic regulations,” KP Salim said.

However, the administration has issued a new set of bizarre orders intending to further criminalise the islanders.

An order released on Friday directed the people of the islands to scientifically dispose of the tender coconut shell, tree leaves, coconut husk, coconut shell, trunk, etc in and around the dwelling and public places.

Another order decided to depute responsible government servants onboard local fishing boats for intelligence gathering. A meeting chaired by principal secretary cum advisor to the administrator, on May 28, also decided to intensify the checking of passenger boats and vessels reaching the island, tighten the security measures to monitor the local fishing boats and crews, and strengthen the ship berthing points and helibase by installing CCTV cameras.

UCK Thangal termed this order as unnecessary adding that a well-secured system of surveillance by the Navy and the Coast Guard was already in place in Lakshadweep.

“A core committee meeting will be held after the hunger strike to decide the future programs. We are unified in this struggle. The forum will continue the fight till the contentious reforms got repealed,” UCK THangal said, signalling the protest will intensify in the coming days.