The police in Lakshadweep on Thursday filed a sedition case against filmmaker Aisha Sultana for saying that the Centre was using administrator Praful Khoda Patel as a “bio-weapon” against the people of the Union Territory, The Indian Express reported.

The Lakshadweep unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party filed a complaint, alleging that Sultana made a seditious comment during a debate on a Malayalam news channel. Reports said she was discussing the controversial regulations introduced by Patel and the rise in coronavirus cases on the islands since he took charge in December.

Sultana, who has campaigned against the proposed regulations, has been booked under Sections 124 A (sedition) and 153 B (hate speech). Complaints have also been been filed against her in Kerala by BJP workers.

“I had used the word bio-weapon in the TV channel debate,” Sultana wrote on Facebook, according to The Indian Express. “I have felt Patel as well as his policies [have acted] as a bio-weapon. It was through Patel and his entourage that Covid-19 spread in Lakshadweep. I have compared Patel as a bio-weapon, not the government or the country...You should understand. What else should I call him?”

Lakshadweep Sahitya Pravarthaka Sangam criticised the sedition case against Sultana, saying she was only reacting to the “inhuman” measures undertaken by Patel. “It was Patel’s interventions that made Lakshadweep a Covid-affected area,” said K Bahir, the organisation’s spokesperson.

Bahir added that the cultural community in Lakshadweep will support Sultana.

The proposed regulations

Residents of Lakshadweep have blamed Patel’s decision to relax quarantine norms for the rise in Covid-19 cases. For nearly a year, the Union Territory was free of the pandemic. The first coronavirus case was reported in the Lakshadweep on January 18.

The other new regulations by Patel include a proposed cow slaughter ban, a preventive detention law in the Union Territory – which has one of the lowest crime rates in the country – and a draft law proposing sweeping changes in land development regulations.

Opposition parties have criticised Patel’s decisions related to the Union Territory and have asked for his removal from the post. The parties accused him of harassing locals and destroying the heritage of the island territory. Politicians have also alleged that Patel, who had served as Gujarat home minister, has been targeting Lakshadweep’s large Muslim population.

On May 31, the Kerala government passed a resolution against the policies and urged the Centre to call back the administrator. On June 5, a group of 93 former civil servants wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expressing concern over the proposed regulations.

Facing criticism for the draft laws from various entities, Patel has defended the proposals, saying that these were efforts to develop the region and help its residents.

However, some members of the BJP have also expressed their apprehensions. BJP Lakshadweep unit president Mohammad Kasim has joined the protest against the new rules. Eight members of the saffron party’s youth wing had also resigned in protest against the administrator “undemocratic actions”.

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