The education department of Lakshadweep has announced a change in weekly holidays for schools in the region. Instead of Fridays — which has been the norm for decades now — the new holiday will be observed on Sunday. However, this decision has been met with some resistance from the Muslim community. As per the 2011 census, Muslims form 96 percent of the population of Lakshadweep and schools remained closed on Fridays to allow the community to attend the afternoon congregational prayers.

As per the administration, the school timings were being modified to ‘ensure optimum utilisation of resources’ and to ensure ‘proper engagement of learners and necessary planning of teaching-learning process.’

The Save Lakshadweep Forum, a body of political and religious bodies, marked this decision as a new way to spoil the identity of the island and stated that it would oppose the move fiercely.

This backlash against the administration comes a few months after there were protests against a draft by the Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation to develop the islands as a major tourist destination. Residents felt the regulation would be damaging since 97 of the islands are covered by pristine forests and 95 percent of its Muslim population belongs to the Scheduled Tribe category.

About the new weekly off, Lakshadweep collector Asgar Ali said the change was overdue given the long-pending demand of teachers and a section of parents. “It is nothing to do with the religion. We are providing a one-hour break to students to offer Friday prayers. The administration is following the national system where Sunday is designated as a holiday. This will help streamline things.”

P.P. Abbas, Vice President and counsellor of the Lakshadweep District Panchayat, wrote to Administrator Praful Khoda Patel requesting him to reconsider this order and for the administration to have a meeting of elected representatives and other stakeholders to discuss the issue.




Image credit: kyo azuma on Unsplash