Over a dozen Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and workers in Lakshadweep have resigned from the party to protest the sedition case filed against filmmaker Aisha Sultana for her remarks against the Centre’s Covid-19 management in the Union territory.
In the resignation letter submitted to the BJP’s Lakshadweep president, C Abdul Khader Haji, the leaders described the case against Sultana as “false, unjustified and against the spirit of the island”.
“You have filed a false and unjustified complaint against Sultana who pointed out undemocratic actions of the administrator. This will ruin her family and future and this is not in the right spirit of the island,” said one of the signatories of the letter, Abdul Hameed Mullipuzha, who is the general secretary of the party’s Kavaratti unit.
“We can’t go ahead like this. I am resigning from the party,” said B C Cheriya Koya, president of the Andrott unit.
On June 10, the Lakshadweep police registered a sedition case against filmmaker Aisha Sultana for allegedly calling the Union territory’s administrator, Praful Khoda Patel, a “bio-weapon” launched by the Centre. The FIR was registered against the filmmaker on the complaint of BJP Lakshadweep wing president C Abdul Khader Haji.
Sultana, a Lakshadweep resident, allegedly made the comment during a TV discussion amid anger in the region over new rules introduced by Patel, which his opponents say threaten the livelihoods of islanders.
The filmmaker later defended her statement, saying she will move the High Court against the police action. “I had used the word bio-weapons in one of the TV debates. I did not attack the country or the union government. I was referring to some of the decisions of Patel which infuriated local people. Despite popular sentiment he continues to antagonise people. As a local resident I have every right to criticise him,” she posted on her Facebook account.
Many cine actors and others have extended support to her and deplored the local administration’s move. The Kerala government, too, assured Sultana of legal support.
For over a month now, residents of the archipelago have been protesting against the administrator, saying his moves will affect the “unique culture and tradition” of the island.
The draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation that Patel has introduced proposes to develop the islands as a major tourist destination. Residents allege it will destroy the islands’ character and identity since 97% of the islands is covered by pristine forests and 95% of its Muslim population belongs to the Scheduled Tribe category.
Many parliamentarians, former bureaucrats and artists have described the draft regulations as arbitrary and aimed against the community of the islands.
The Kerala assembly passed a unanimous resolution seeking the recall of the administrator. As many as 93 retired bureaucrats sent a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticising the “partisan attitude” of the new administrator and urged him to protect the unique culture and tradition of the islands.
The BJP, however, underplayed the resignations. “Most of them have quit much early. They are raking up their resignations repeatedly to get attention. The party is intact in the island,” said national vice-president of the party A P Abdullah Kutty.
Earlier, on Thursday, the CPI had assured Sultan of legal aid. “Despite local leaders protest the BJP and union Government are going ahead with their plan. It shows adamant posture of both” CPI leader P Raju said.