Kerala MPs of the Left Democratic Front (LDF), whose application to visit Lakshadweep were rejected by the Union Territory’s (UT) administration, plan to challenge the decision in and out of Parliament. The administration had similarly denied entry to Kerala MPs from the United Democratic Front (UDF) on Sunday.
The July 5 order barring the Left MPs from visiting the island were passed by IAS officer Askar Ali, who is Additional District Magistrate (ADM) of Lakshadweep. It said there were security concerns over the visit, and it would create law and order problems.
The Left MPs said they would challenge the order both in Parliament and out of it. “Members of Parliament being denied entry to a Union Territory citing the reason that their visit would be a security threat is nothing but an insult to Parliament and democratic principles established by the Constitution,” Elamaram Kareem, Rajya Sabha MP from Kerala, told The Federal.
Question of rank
Kareem placed the blame on the Centre. “How did an IAS officer, who is much lower in rank (to MPs), dare to do it? The clear indication is that all these activities in the Island are being executed with the solemn support of the Centre,” he said.
The order said the MPs’ visit would escalate the agitation of the people against the present administration. “As per the report submitted by the police, the proposed visit of MPs from Kerala state to Lakshadweep ‘may activate local people, political parties/activists, social workers and people from different walks of life about the present opposition/agitation against administration’. This can possibly result in outside public protest in the island,” said the July 5 order of the ADM.
According to the UT’s administration, another ground for denial of permission is that the purpose of the MPs’ visit is ‘political’. The leaders’ stated purpose of visit was ‘to have a fact-check on the impact of the administrative actions and reforms under the present administrator on the people of Lakshadweep’, which appears to be a political action, said the ADM’s order.
Law and order concerns
An inquiry was made into the law and order situation in the island and it was found that the “present situation is not conducive for the visit of politicians and such visits may instigate locals and create disturbances in these highly sensitive islands”, the order further said.
In the same paragraph, the ADM also stated that “their visit to the island for political activities will certainly disturb the calm and peaceful atmosphere in the island and it will be against the interest of the general public, public order and security of the Union Territory”.
The ADM’s order was addressed to eight LDF MPs from Kerala — AM Ariff, Elamaram Kareem, V Sivadasan, Binoy Viswam, MV Shreyams Kumar, K Somaprasad, Thomas Chazhikadan and John Brittas.
“This is totally unacceptable,” said Somaprasad, Rajya Sabha MP from Kerala. “This is a very serious issue. The Members of Parliament — particularly, the members of the Rajya Sabha — being denied entry to any place in India is plain violation of the privilege of the members. We will challenge this in every way possible.”
Talking to The Federal, he said the situation is worse than what had happened in Kashmir. “Kashmir has a long history of conflict, but Lakshadweep is one of the places in India having the lowest crime rate. The Island has no history of any conflict or violence, communal or otherwise,” he said. He added that the reasons cited by the ADM are completely baseless.
Shifting the goal post
“They are only shifting the goal post. Earlier, they gave a reply to me that visiting Lakshadweep will be permitted after sometime. They have never raised any of these contentions earlier,” said AM Ariff, Lok Sabha MP from Alappuzha. He told The Federal that all the MPs have moved a privilege motion in the House, which he hopes will be taken in the session that begins on July 19. “This session of Parliament is going to see a storm on this issue,” he added.
An earlier reply sent to Ariff by the ADM, on May 30, did not cite any reasons of security, law and order or public interest. On the other hand, the ADM welcomed him and other MPs on a later date to visit the island. It only cited COVID protocol as a reason for denying immediate entry.
“It is to inform that there is a mandatory requirement for seven days quarantine in the islands for those who come from mainland as per the Standard Covid Protocol (SOP) in place in the Union Territory,” the May 30 e-mail had said. “Hence, you are requested to plan the proposed visit on a later date and we would like to host you in the islands when the COVID situation improves.” It did not refer to any security threat.