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When a statue of Mahatma Gandhi could not be installed in Lakshadweep due to unspoken ‘shariat culture’

Though authorities cited "bad weather", in reality, the installation of the statue of Gandhi was opposed by the local Muslims, saying installation of such idols and statues would hurt sentiments of the community.

Amidst the ongoing political controversy surrounding reforms in Lakshadweep, scion of the Nehru-Gandhi Parivar Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter to lecture the Modi government regarding secularism and went on to refer to them as ‘bigots’ for initiating certain governance reforms in the Union Territory.

In his tweet, Rahul Gandhi claimed that Lakshadweep is India’s jewel in the ocean, while the ignorant ‘bigots’ in power are destroying it. Rahul Gandhi said that he stood with the people of Lakshadweep, who are allegedly protesting against the reforms initiated by the Lakshadweep administration to bring in sweeping changes pertaining to the administration of the Union Territory.

Rahul Gandhi had also written a letter to the Prime Minister saying, “The proposed changes to regulations like Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation, the Lakshadweep Animals Preservation Regulation and lifting of restrictions on the sale of alcohol are a deliberate assault on the ‘cultural and religious fabric of the local community.

“Under the guise of development and maintaining law and order in a low crime UT, the draconian regulations penalise dissent and undermine grassroots democracy,” Rahul Gandhi wrote in a letter to PM Modi on Wednesday.

The Congress party had even filed a petition in the Kerala High Court seeking a stay on the reforms initiated by the Central government. However, in a big setback to the Congress party, the Kerala High Court on Friday refused to stay the reforms by categorically stating that it was just a policy issue.

Essentially, the Kerala High Court dismissed the ‘religious and cultural’ bogey that is being aggressively peddled by Congress leaders and its ecosystem, including Rahul Gandhi.

However, it is imperative to mention that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who attacks the Modi government over secularism, conveniently forgets how the Congress-led UPA government turned a blind eye when Muslims in Lakshadweep disrespected MK Gandhi and the country’s secular principles by objecting to the installation of his statue in Karavatti by claiming the statue would hurt their sentiments.

‘Secular’ Muslims in Lakshadweep objects to MK Gandhi statues, cites Sharia law

On the occasion of the Gandhi Jayanthi celebrations, the United Progressive Alliance-led government had decided to install a statue of MK Gandhi at Kavaratti in Lakshadweep. In September 2010, a Rs 2 lakh statue of MK Gandhi was sent to Lakshadweep in the vessel MV Amindivi to be installed at Kavaratti.

However, the bust of MK Gandhi could not be offloaded at Lakshadweep as Muslims, who account for over 98 per cent of the total population of the union territory, objected to the installation of any such statues. Though authorities cited “bad weather”, in reality, the installation of the statue of Gandhi was opposed by the local Muslims saying installation of such idols and statues would hurt sentiments of the community.

According to the reports from Kerala-based media outlets, the local Muslims believe that if such a statute is once installed, then they will have to pay respects to it by decorating it with flowers, which according to them, is a part of Hindutva and violates the Sharia law. Hence the Muslims in Lakshadweep vehemently opposed the installation of the Gandhi statue in Kavaratti.

It is worth mentioning that idolatry or worshipping any statues is forbidden in Islam. As Islam is a monotheistic religion, worship or paying respects to statues is considered a “shirk” or a sin.

As Muslims in Lakshadweep opposed the installation of the Gandhi statue, the vessel MV Amindivi carried the bust back to Kochi. A day later, it was sent back to Kavaratti once again.

Speaking on the issue, Lakshadweep collector N Vasantha Kumar had denied any religious angle to it. However, several reports have hinted that the administration had to drop the plan to install MK Gandhi’s statue at Kavaratti after facing stiff opposition from Muslims.

Eleven years since then, MK Gandhi’s bust has faced a harrowing time and it is yet to make an appearance at the island. Currently, it is reported that the bust is kept at the Lakshadweep administrative offices in Kavaratti, waiting to be installed. However, its fate is not known since 2010.

Rahul Gandhi, who had remained silent even as Muslims in Lakshadweep showed disdain to India’s constitution in favour of Sharia laws, has shown eagerness to question the Modi government over the implementation of new reforms measures. Perhaps, Rahul Gandhi should be reminded that Lakshadweep is still part of the Indian territory and not an independent Islamic nation.

[We tried reaching Lakshadweep administration to verify whether any attempts have been made to install the statue of MK Gandhi in the union territory, however, we could not reach them. The report will update with their response once received.]

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