The original owners of the Lakshadweep Islands have demanded a higher compensation from the government,if not the islands themselves. Their ancestors,the only Muslim royal family in Kerala,had signed over the islands to the British a century ago at a malikana of Rs 23,000 a year,and it has remained that much since.
From 1545 to 1819,the islands of Androth,Kavaratti,Agathi,Minicoy and Kalpeni were in the possession of the Arakkal family,which ruled the North Kerala coast and is based in Kannur. In 1908,when the family signed the final deal with the British,the price of gold was Rs 3.30 per sovereign,says the current generation. If you look at the present gold prices,we are entitled to Rs 13 crore a year as compensation. The royal family feels insulted at the pittance being paid, says Adi Raja Muhammed Rafi,son of current royal head Sainaba Aysha Beevi. The family followed a matriarchal system of rule.
Rafi says the family of 150 is struggling to finance its royal rituals and maintain its infrastructure,which includes four mosques. A royal trust has been formed to fight for the demand for a higher malikana. Rafi says the family is mobilising public opinion as the Centre has not responded to a petition it sent.
Last month,the Kerala government decided to give a monthly pension of Rs 2,500 each to 826 members of the Kozhikode-based Zamorin royal family. The Zamorins had ruled the Malabar coast for several centuries.