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This article is written by Amrit Kaur, a student of Dr B.R. Ambedkar National Law University, RAI, Sonepat. The article throws light on the union territory of Lakshadweep and then talks about the recent draft regulations released by its administration.

About Lakshadweep

Lakshadweep, India’s smallest Union Territory (UT), is a 32-square-kilometre archipelago made up of 36 islands. It has twelve atolls, 3 reefs, 5 submerged banks and ten inhabited islands and is a single-district Union Territory.

The islands cover a total of 32 square kilometres. Kavaratti is the capital and the most important town in the Union Territory. All of the islands are located in the emerald Arabian Sea, around 220 to 440 kilometres away from Kochi, Kerala’s coastal town. Lakshadweep’s mystique is enhanced by its natural landscapes, sandy beaches, the richness of flora and fauna and lack of a hurried lifestyle.

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The collection of 36 islands known as Lakshadweep is renowned for its unique and sun-kissed beaches as well as its lush green scenery. The word Lakshadweep means “a hundred thousand islands”, in Malayalam and Sanskrit languages.

The Union Territory of Lakshadweep is surrounded by the warm seas of the Arabian Sea and is about 240 miles off the coast of Kerala. It is politically and historically tied to India, but it is also insulated from much of what is happening on the Indian mainland. 

More than 93 per cent of the indigenous population is Muslim, with the majority belonging to the Shafi School of the Sunni sect. Lakshadweep is divided into three major groups of islands:

  • Amindivi Islands
  • Laccadive Islands
  • Minicoy Island

Amindivi Islands are the northernmost islands whereas Minicoy island is the southernmost. All these islands are tiny islands of coral origin (Atoll) which are hemmed in by fringing reefs. Moreover, a bird sanctuary is located on Pitti Island, which is uninhabited. Under India’s Participatory Guarantee System (PGS), the whole Lakshadweep group of islands was recently proclaimed as an organic agricultural region.

Telecommunication services are only provided by BSNL and Airtel in the Lakshadweep Islands. Airtel offers connectivity to Kavaratti and Agatti islands, whereas BSNL provides access to all ten inhabited islands. The islands of Lakshadweep even have a very stringent entrance policy.

To visit these islands, one needs the Lakshadweep Administration’s entrance permission. Moreover, the Union Territory is directly under the control of an administrator, directly appointed by the Central Government. The current administrator of Lakshadweep is Praful Patel. 

History of Lakshadweep

Discovery of the Island

Lakshadweep’s early history is not written anywhere. What we currently know about its history is built on various legends. According to tradition, the first settlement on these islands took place during the reign of Cheraman Perumal, the last monarch of Kerala’s Chera dynasty. According to popular belief in Kerala, the Cheraman Perumal had a weird dream after which he converted to Islam.

It is alleged that after converting to Islam, Cheraman Perumal slipped out of his capital, Cranganore, which is now Kodungallor, a historic harbour town in Kochi, at the insistence of some Arab merchants, and then headed for Mecca. When his absence was detected, search groups set out on sailing boats for the shores in Mecca, looking for the king at various locations. When the Raja failed to return to Kerala, the Raja of Kolattunad (North Malabar), a tributary prince, is said to have dispatched a search team to hunt for him. This search group became stranded on one of the Lakshadweep islands after getting trapped in a strong storm. These castaways, according to legend, were the first inhabitants on the islands of Lakshadweep.

Religion on the island

The conversion of the Lakshadweep settlers to Islam is similarly steeped in myths and mystery. The conversion process is attributed to ‘Ubaid Allah,’ who is said to be the grandson of the first Caliph, Abu Bakr. It is widely believed that one St.Ubaidullah(r) fell asleep while worshipping in Mecca. He had a dream in which Prophet Mohammed urged him to travel to Jeddah and board a ship to travel to faraway locations. As a result, he departed from Jeddah, but after months of sailing, a storm wrecked his ship near these tiny islands.

He has swept ashore on the island of Amini while floating aboard. He slept off there and had another dream about the Prophet urging him to spread Islam on that island. Ubaidullah began to do so. While this narrative is difficult to verify historically, there is a tomb of Ubaid Allah within the Jami mosque on Androth Island, which is regarded as a holy place.


From the 16th CE onwards, these islands were controlled by the Arakkal kingdom of Kannur, Kerala’s sole Muslim dynasty and also a matrilineal one. Adi Raja was the name given to the kingdom’s male ruler, while Arakkal Beewi was the name given to the reigning queen. The Arakkal kingdom, however, was regularly at odds with European powers by the 16th century.

With the arrival of the Portuguese in India, the Laccadives became an important harbour for mariners once more. As a result, the Portuguese began plundering island vessels. They forcefully arrived in Amini in the early 16th century to seek coir, but it is reported that the locals poisoned all of the invaders, putting an end to the Portuguese invasion.

Even after the entire island group was converted to Islam, the Hindu Rajah of Chirakkal retained control of the islands for some time. Around the middle of the 16th century, the island’s administration got transferred from the Chirakkal Raja to the Muslim house of Arakkal of Cannanore. The authority of the Arakkal was repressive and intolerable. So, in 1783, a group of islanders from Amini mustered the bravery to approach Tipu Sultan in Mangalore and begged that he take over the administration of the Amini group of islands.

Tipu Sultan was friends with Beebi of Arakkel at that time and so, the islands of the Amini group were given up to him after various consultations. As a result, the suzerainty of the islands was divided, with five islands falling under Tipu Sultan’s authority and the remainder remaining under Arakkal’s rule. The islands were, however, ceded to the British East India Company after the battle of Seringapattom in 1799 and were then controlled from Mangalore.

The Malabar district included the Lakshadweep in the late colonial period and after independence also. The Lakshadweep islands were later on split from the Malabar district and organized as a distinct Union Territory for administrative reasons in 1956, during the reorganization of states. Further,  in 1973, it was given the name Lakshadweep. 

The social and cultural fabric of the Union Territory

The socio-cultural life on the island is one of a kind. Even though Lakshadweep is home to a majority of Muslims, Islam practised here is distinct from that practised elsewhere in India. It is a matrilineal civilization with Hindu customs and caste structures influencing it. Furthermore, while the islanders have ethnic, linguistic, and cultural ties with Kerala’s Malayalam-speaking population, Lakshadweep also has substantial Arabic, Tamil, and Kannada influences.

The long-standing custom of matriliny, in which lineage and property are passed down from mother to daughter, distinguishes the Islamic community of Lakshadweep from the rest of India. However, in recent years, the effect of contemporary lifestyles and nuclear family systems has had an impact on the islands’ ancient matrilineal customs. 

Malayalam is spoken on all islands except Minicoy, where inhabitants speak Mahl, a Divehi script language that is also spoken in the Maldives. Due to their economic and social backwardness, the whole indigenous population has been designated as Scheduled Tribes. Therefore, there are no Scheduled Castes in Lakshadweep. The people’s major occupations include fishing, coconut cultivation and coir twisting. Tourism is a very new business in the Union Territory.

Furthermore, the two most prominent folk art forms in the territory are Kolkali and Parichakali. They are an important component of the cultural atmosphere of the Union Territory, except in Minicoy, where “LAVA” is the most popular dance style. Some of the folk dances are similar to those performed in North-Eastern India.

“OPPANA,” a song sung by a lead vocalist and followed by a group of women, is a frequent part of weddings. Picnics are a popular form of recreation in Minicoy. Independence Day and Republic Day, Milad-ul-Nabi, Eid-ul-Fitr, Bakrid, and Muharram, in that order, are the most celebrated festivities. Surprisingly, Independence Day and Republic Day are celebrated with religious passion over several days.

Politics of the Union Territory

Since 2014, the UT has been represented by a Lok Sabha MP, Mohd Faizal P. P. He is from Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). The NCP and the Congress are the two most powerful parties, with units from BJP and Communist parties as well. Between 1967 and 2004, PM Sayeed was elected for ten consecutive terms, eight of them on a Congress ticket. From 2009 till 2014, his son Muhammed Hamdulla Sayeed served as a Member of Parliament.

Dweep panchayat councils exist in addition to the UT Administration. In the district, panchayat and dweep panchayat elections of 2017, Congress gained a majority of votes.

Recent administrative changes in the Union Territory of Lakshadweep

Praful Patel, the Administrator of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, who formerly served as Gujarat’s Home Minister under Narendra Modi, while Narendra Modi was the state’s Chief Minister is the current administrator of Lakshadweep. Following the demise of the then administrator Dineshwar Sharma, he was granted additional responsibility of Lakshadweep on December 5, 2020.

Lakshadweep had not reported a single case of COVID-19 till his appointment in December 2020. With his arrival and multiple visits, mandatory quarantine guidelines and SOPs, for eg: the mandatory quarantine period of 14 days for those arriving from the mainland were removed. As a result, people entered the islands without adopting necessary COVID measures as a consequence of the shift in the standard operating procedures (SOP). COVID-19 was not found in Lakshadweep throughout the entire year of 2020. But the recent change, resulted in the first reported case of COVID-19 on 18 January 2021, the first Covid death on 24 February 2021, and over 5000 cases, 14 deaths, and a frightening test positivity rate of 68 per cent, resulting in a complete lockdown circumstance until recently. In the first five months of 2021 alone, the island had a significant increase in COVID-19 positive cases (about 6,600), causing concern in the densely populated island region with limited health care facilities and a population of only over 70,000.

New proposals presented by the administration

Meanwhile, the administration under Praful Patel has released a few proposals like the ban on cow slaughter and beef, the two-child policy, the allowance to serve liquor to tourists, the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation (PASA) and land acquisition powers. Let’s have a look at each of these separately.

Ban on cow slaughter and beef

The Animal Husbandry Department of Lakshadweep has recently proposed the draft Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation, 2021 with various stringent provisions under it. The Administration’s directive aims to ban the slaughtering of cows, calves, bulls, and buffalos without a certificate from the competent body.  The selling, buying, transportation and storage of beef and beef products in any form is prohibited under the regulation.

The administration of the Union Territory has not offered any explanation for why the regulation was introduced. Since 96.5 per cent of the population of Lakshadweep, which amounts to around 70,000 people (total population), is Muslim, the majority of the islanders are displeased with the policy.

The regulation provides law enforcement agents with the authority to enter and examine any premise without a warrant. If found guilty of slaughtering any animal without a certificate, the person may face a year of imprisonment and can be fined up to Rs 10,000. Those caught slaughtering a cow, calf, bull, or bullock without a certificate, risk a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum punishment of life imprisonment with a maximum fine of Rs 5 lakh. Those who break the beef ban will be sentenced to a minimum of seven years imprisonment. The offences under the regulation are non-bailable and cognizable.

Cow vigilantes will have legal protection under the regulation. According to the legislation, it ensures the preservation of animals appropriate for milking, breeding, or for agricultural uses. No certificate will be issued to slaughter cows, calves, bulls, or bullocks on the island for this reason. 

As per the regulation, the slaughtering of animals for religious purposes other than cows and bulls will require a certificate from the authorities. It goes on to say that the authorities will not issue licenses for slaughtering animals other than cows and bulls if those animals are deemed to be beneficial for agricultural work or for breeding purposes.

The rule stipulates that the animal’s fitness for slaughter must be certified. Also, if a person is caught transporting such an animal, it is that individual who bears the burden of proving that it is not for slaughter.

The policy of two children

The draft Lakshadweep Panchayat Regulation, 2021 by the Lakshadweep administration outlines the procedures for being elected to gram panchayats. According to the regulation, those having more than two children are ineligible to be elected to the gram panchayats. The rule, however, will not apply to people who already have more than two children when it comes into effect. They will still be able to compete as long as they do not have any more children in the future. 

In addition, the regulation mandates that women be given a reservation of 50% of the seats in gram panchayats. “Not less than one-half of the total number of sarpanch offices in the gram panchayats shall be reserved for women: provided, however, that, offices reserved under this subsection shall be allotted by the Election Commission by rotation to different Gram Panchayats in such manner as may be prescribed,” states the regulation. 

It is to be noted here that states like Rajasthan, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, and Karnataka already have passed legislation making it illegal to run for panchayat elections if you have more than two children.

Serving of liquor to tourists

According to the administration, liquor will now be supplied in resorts on inhabited islands also. Currently, prohibition is in effect on all inhabited islands, with liquor available exclusively at resorts on the uninhabited island of Bangaram. Collector S Asker Ali stressed that liquor licenses will only be granted to resorts catering to visitors, not to locals.

The Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation (PASA)

The Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation (PASA) is popularly known as Goonda Act. According to Section 3 of the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation, if the administrator is convinced with respect to any person that he/she will act in any manner that will be prejudicial to the maintenance of public order and thus, intending to prevent him from doing that act, it is necessary to do so, may make an order, ordering that the person should be detained.

According to the regulation, a person who is engaged as a bootlegger, cruel person, dangerous person, drug offender, immoral traffic offender, property grabber, cyber offender, money lending offender, depredator of the environment, or sexual offender is deemed to be with the scope of, “acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order”. As per the regulation, the person under it can be detained for one year without any public disclosure. 

It is worth mentioning here that the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation is not something new or unique to Lakshadweep but various states, including Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh have likewise regulations

The draft of Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation (LDAR) of 2021

The Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation proposes the establishment of the Lakshadweep Development Authority (LDA). It authorizes the administrator, the government, to establish Planning and Development Authorities to plan the development of any region recognized as having poor layout or outdated development. The authority would be an organization with a government-appointed chairman, a town planning officer, and three government-nominated “experts,” as well as two members from local authorities. 

These authorities would be responsible for preparing land use maps, performing zonation for the type of land use and identifying locations for proposed national highways, arterial roads, ring roads, major streets, railroads, tramways, airports, theatres, museums and other infrastructure. However, as per the Act, this does not apply to cantonment areas.

The regulation defines development as the construction, engineering, mining, quarrying, or other operations in, on, over, or under land, the cutting of a hill or any section thereof, or any substantial change in any building or land or the use of any building or land. It states that for zone changes, islanders must pay a processing fee. It means that locals would have to pay fees to get clearance to change zones in accordance with the development plan. They will also have to pay the fees in order to get permission to develop their property.

It provides punishments such as, for impeding the development plan’s activities or workers, a person can be imprisoned. Its goal is to alter the island’s current land ownership. 

The administration also has the authority under the regulation to pick any land for “development” activities that are permitted under the regulation. After the land has been selected, it can be utilized as the administration deems proper. This means that the land’s owner would have no control over it because then it would be used for a “public purpose.”

The legislation stipulates that a property owner must renew his or her land use permit every three years, failing which fines would be levied. According to the regulation, the development plan cannot be questioned by anybody (either before or after it has been approved), including in court proceedings. It gives the administrator the power to forcefully remove or transfer inhabitants from their dwellings for any developmental activity.

It is to be noted here that, the President, under Article 240 of the Constitution, has the right to create rules for the peace, progress, and good governance of the Union Territory of Lakshadweep, and this is how Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation (LDAR) 2021 will be implemented. The President’s legislative power under Article 240 is so broad that any regulation issued under it, has the ability to repeal or alter any Act of Parliament that is currently in force in the Union Territory. As a result, the President may repeal or alter any Act of Parliament that is currently applicable to Union territory by issuing a regulation under Article 240. Once issued by the President, the regulations have the same force and effect as an Act of Parliament that applies to the region.

According to the administration, the LDAR will help in the development of the Union Territory. The administration has claimed that Lakshadweep is just a few hundred miles away from the Maldives and further both the archipelagos have many things in common but the Maldives has grown as a global tourist place with Lakshadweep being nowhere on the tourist map. The main reason for the same is the negligible presence of tourist facilities in Lakshadweep. Thus, with the help of this regulation the administration claims, it wants to develop Lakshadweep at par with the Maldives.

Reasons behind public backlash to proposals of the administration

  • The ban on cow slaughter and beef is seen by locals as a direct attack on their culture and eating habits. They claim the rule was made without consulting local authorities.
  • For the two-child policy, the motive has been questioned by the locals. 
  • On the matter of the administration’s decision to allow the sale of liquor to the tourists in the Union Territory, residents claim that the decision would increase liquor sales on the island, which has been in a state of near-prohibition up until now.
  • With regards to the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation (PASA), residents question why such a strict regulation is needed in a state with one of the lowest crime rates in the country. Only 121 incidents of crime were reported on the islands in 2017, 86 in 2018, 186 in 2019, and 89 in 2020, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
  • The island’s “green zone” designation was lost as a result of the alteration in Covid-19 SOP’s, and infections spiked in the months afterwards. The Union Territory had recorded approximately 7,300 cases and 28 fatalities as of May 28. The islanders blame the administration for the pandemic’s mishandling.
  • The people of Lakshadweep have been protesting vehemently against the Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation (LDAR) 2021. These reasons have been explained under the next sub-heading.

Reasons for protesting against the LDAR 2021

  • Abrogation of Fundamental Right

  1. The Regulation gives the administration and the Lakshadweep Planning and Development Authority established under the regulation, the powers to acquire, modify and transfer the property owned by the islanders of Lakshadweep. 
  2. It would infringe on the Lakshadweep islanders’ fundamental right which is guaranteed by Articles 21 of the Constitution. This is because people’s right to reside anywhere within the Indian territory might be affected and hence leading to violation of the Right to life under Article 21.
  • Real Estate Lobby Fears

  1. The LDAR is said to have sparked suspicions among the local populace that it is designed to facilitate the entry of capital from outside the islands, in order to acquire land.
  2. Many islanders believe that the LDAR was issued in order to get real estate interests, so as to seize tiny parcels of land owned by islanders.
  3. Proposals to introduce real estate development concepts such as “transferable development rights” in the island have sparked fears of mass migration among the islanders.
  • Forceful Relocation and Eviction

  1. Concerns about forceful eviction have been raised by provisions of LDAR that allow the authority unrestricted ability to remove individuals for developmental plans.
  2. The LDAR also places the burden on the landowner to develop their property in accordance with the authority’s plan, as well as imposes severe penalties in the event of non-compliance with the same.
  • Threat to the cultural life.

The island community is a well-knit group of people that live in close proximity. The legislation might put an end to the way of life that they have followed for generations.

  • Concerns with regards to Ecology

The locals believe that the regulation is neither environmentally nor socially feasible and it was designed without the participation of people’s representatives.

Dilution of the aims of Land Acquisition Act

  1. The regulation might change the Land Acquisition Act‘s provisions that apply to Lakshadweep.
  2. As stated in the preamble, one of the most important goals of the Land Acquisition Act is to guarantee a humane, participatory, informed, and transparent land acquisition process in cooperation with institutions of local self-government and Gram Sabhas constituted under the Constitution, thus, this goal might be neglected under the regulation.
  • Ignores the needs of people and the geographic realities

  1. The regulation calls for the construction and expansion of current and prospective national highways, major streets, ring roads, railroads, tramways, airports, and canals, neglecting the region’s geographical realities and long-standing needs of its inhabitants.
  2. For example, transit connectivity between the islands and the Indian mainland is a key problem for the islanders.
  3. More ships and boats, as well as better facility management, are required, rather than trains and trams.


Lakshadweep is the smallest Union Territory of India. The central government appoints an administrator to look after its administration and thus it is directly under the control of the centre. The recent draft regulations brought out by the administration has led to protests in the region. The local people are not happy with the regulations and have their reasons for the same. But the administration, on the other hand, has its own justifications for the same. Now the future of these regulations will be tested with time only.



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