Several Bharatiya Janata Party leaders and workers in Lakshadweep on Friday resigned in protest against the sedition case filed against filmmaker Aisha Sultana, NDTV reported.

During a debate on a Malayalam news channel, Sultana had blamed administrator Praful Khoda Patel for the surge in coronavirus cases in the Union Territory. She said the Centre was using him as a “bio-weapon” against the people of Lakshadweep.

In a strongly-worded letter to C Abdul Khader Haji, the chief of the BJP Lakshadweep unit, 12 leaders and workers said the case against Sultana was “false and unjustified”. It was aimed at destroying her future, they added.

The letter said that BJP workers on the islands were fully aware of how Patel’s controversial regulations are causing extreme suffering among citizens. “You also know that several BJP leaders of Lakshadweep have already spoken on the various wrongdoings of the administrator and the district collector,” it added.

The complaint against Sultana was registered by Haji, accusing her of making “anti-national” comments “tarnishing the patriotic image of the central government”. The BJP leaders strongly objected to this, saying the filmmaker was only speaking for the rights of the people on the islands and about the administrator’s “unscientific, irresponsible decisions”.

Former chief of the BJP’s Bitra island unit Abdul Hameed was among those who resigned, The Telegraph reported. “Instead of just ignoring what she said, they have gone and registered an first information report,” he told reporters. “Why do we need this party when it can’t work for the people?”

Ishaq Hameed, another BJP leader from Bitra island, said he had also quit. “We were not informed when the leadership decided to lodge a complaint against Aisha,” he told a news channel.

Last month, eight members of the saffron party’s youth wing had also resigned in protest against Patel’s “undemocratic actions”.

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 rules.

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.