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Losing Paradise

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on July 2, 2021 15:14

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When political ideologies meet with reality, ordinary people have to pay the price. The most idyllic island paradise in the world is facing ethnic ideology, repression and lack of recognition which will inevitably empower extremist resistance. Local inhabitants are being disempowered and need your support.

The Lakshwadeep Islands off the west coast of India have a long history. Greek and Roman histories, Buddhist Jatakas and Islamic legends told of life on these remote sandbanks in the mild ocean. After independence these islands became a Union Territory, a sort of tribal reserve with limited access for foreigners and limited representation in the Indian Lok Sabha or Parliament.

The jetty at the end of the world. Photo Orca Diving Center, with permission

I visited these islands twice, in 1998 with my bride to be, and again in 2008, both times for diving. On our first dive in 1998 I wanted to end the whole diving holiday after ten minutes, having seen dolphins, turtles, earnest blue spotted rays and schools of fish so dense you could hardly see your dive buddy.

We spent nights on the jetty at the end of the world, solving all possible problems in the sultry breeze under magnificent stars, instead of staying in the airless, hot brick bungalow that Delhi bureaucrats had designed.

The approved diet for foreigners was standard Delhi fare: goat and chicken heavy with chilis. A local friend came to my rescue with honey-sweet papaya and fish an hour out of the lagoon, “but please don’t tell the administration.”

Peaceful beaches, sustainable lifestyle. Photo by Orca Dive Club, with permission.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently appointed a political Administrator from his own Hindu nationalist party instead  of India’s highly acclaimed Public Service, as has been the practice in the past. A number of alarming changes are being envisaged under the new administration: Development regulations will empower the Administrator to remove and relocate the islanders from their own property, a mass tourism development model that has failed elsewhere in the world - water villages have proven extremely polluting and unsustainable in nearby Maldives are envisaged.

Concrete and brick resort on Kadmat. Photo Manvendra Bhangui, CC BY-SA 2.0

A new act to control crime, allowing imprisonment for up to a year without trial is being proposed in a region where practically no crime has been reported over the past decade if not century. Alcohol will be freely allowed into these conservative Muslim communities, their traditional cattle culture will be subjected to Hindu cow veneration.

Previous Administration officials warn that Delhi is making fatal mistakes, criticizing culture-insensitive regulations that are being implemented without consultation. But behind this are two motives: An anti-Islamic policy based on rewriting the history of India, removing all traces of Islam in its history, and reaction to China’s extension into the Indian Ocean. 

Blue spotted ray, threatened by development. Photo Jens Petersen, Wilipedia. CC BY-2.5

I predict that the heavy handed and insensitive approach of the Administrator will force a population with little political rights into the arms of extremists, also Islamist groups. India will then claim terrorist resistance, request international military support, and justify development that will destroy a sustainable culture and a paradise on earth.

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on July 2, 2021 15:14

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Source: Al Jazeera

Critics say UAPA being used as 'political weapon to silence voices' and to 'demonise Muslims, Kashmiris as terrorists'.

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