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Protests Erupt in Lakshadweep After Weekly School Holiday Changed from Friday to Sunday

The archipelago administration has effectively overturned a decades-old practice of school holiday on Friday, which was in line with the sentiments of Muslims, who constitute 96% of Lakshadweep's population.

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New Delhi: The Lakshadweep Union territory administration has changed the weekly holiday for schools from Friday to Sunday, resulting in protests from the archipelago’s dominant Muslim community, The Times of India has reported.

Muslims constitute 96% of the population in Lakshadweep, according to the 2011 census, and Friday has been a holiday for schools for decades.

On Friday, December 17, the Union territory’s education department in an order said school timings and regular activities are “suggested” to be modified to “ensure optimum utilisation of resources and proper engagement of learners and necessary planning of teaching-learning process”.

According to Lakshadweep MP, Mohammad Faizal, Friday was a weekly holiday for schools for the last six decades. “The decision was taken without any discussion with the district panchayat, elected representatives of PTAs. It is a unilateral and unpopular decision; the people of Lakshadweep will not accept it,” TOI quoted Faizal as saying.

Also read: Modi’s Man in Lakshadweep: A Field Guide to Praful Patel’s Tumultuous Record as UT Administrator

Faizal also said that changes would disturb the madrasa system in the islands on Friday mornings.

P.P. Abbas, vice-president-cum-counsellor of the Lakshadweep district panchayat, shot off a letter to the advisor to administrator Praful Khoda Patel, requesting him to reconsider the order of the education department to address the sentiments of the students and parents, according to Hindustan Times.

Abbas, in his letter, noted that the ethnic population of Lakshadweep is Muslim, for whom offering Juma Namaz on Friday is considered to be an “unavoidable religious practice”. He also urged the administration to call a meeting of elected representatives and other stakeholders to discuss the matter.

Protests have become a regular feature in Lakshadweep ever since Praful Khoda Patel took over as its administrator on December 5, 2020, with residents and local civil society organisations accusing the administration under him of implementing “draconian” and “arbitrary” policies with “anti-Muslim prejudice“.

Among many such policies was the introduction in January 2021 of PASA (Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Regulation), colloquially known as the Goonda Act, under which the administrator can jail individuals for up to one year without trial. In Patel’s appointment, many see a design to take Hindutva to Lakshadweep.