The administration of Lakshadweep on Saturday denied permission to Congress MPs Benny Behanan, Hibi Eden and TN Prathapan to visit the Union Territory, The New Indian Express reported.

Collector S Asker Ali alleged that political leaders from outside Lakshadweep were trying to instigate the islands’ residents to stage protests against the administration, which has proposed to introduce certain controversial regulations.

Th new rules include a proposed ban on cow slaughter, 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.

“In the opinion of [the] police, the visit of MPs is likely to instigate violent agitations in the islands and the same is part of a planned effort to disturb the peaceful atmosphere prevailing in the Lakshadweep islands,” the official said in order, according to the newspaper.

Ali also cited the Covid-19 pandemic as a reason to refuse permission for the visit. “There is every possibility of your [the MPs] mingling with large number of people of the islands, and conducting public gatherings and interactions,” he said, according to The New Indian Express. “Such activities may lead to further Covid spread in the islands.”

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Prathapan, one of the Congress MPs, said denying him and his colleagues permission to visit the islands was a violation of their privileges as Parliament members, ANI reported.

He alleged that the Lakshadweep administration, headed by Praful Khoda Patel, was trying to conceal the ground reality in the Islands.

“We will not rest till the issues of the people of Lakshadweep are solved,” Prathapan said, according to ANI. “We will definitely go there and listen to the people, and we will expose the administration. We will continue the fight for the justice of people of the UT [Union Territory] at any cost.”

Prathapan asked how Congress MPs’ visit to the islands would affect the law and order situation. “Interacting with fellow citizens is not a law and order issue,” he said. “We are submitting an appeal to the administrator. If he also does the same [refuses permission for the visit], we will approach HC [Kerala High Court] and raise the Lakshadweep issue in Parliament.”

The residents of Lakshadweep, Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Communist Party of India and other political parties have been protesting against the administration’s proposed legislations.

On June 14, residents observed a “black day” as Patel on Monday arrived in the Union Territory to meet officials and review the progress of various development projects.