Minicoy Island or Maliku is the only inhabited island of the Maliku Atoll. It is the second largest and the southern-most among the islands of the Lakshadweep archipelago, measuring about 10 km from its northern end to its southernmost point. Minicoy is a long island, almost completely covered with coconut trees.
The locals, the Malikun, call their island "Maliku," as do the Maldivians, while it is called "Minikkoy" in Malayalam. On the southern side of the main island lies the uninhabited islet of Viringili where formerly the lepers of Minicoy were banished.
This atoll is administered by India under the Indian Union Territory of Lakshadweep. The closest island to Minicoy is Thuraakunu in the Republic of Maldives. Since 1956, the Indian Government has forbidden contact between people of the two islands despite their geographic proximity and ethnographic similarities. Minicoy Islanders, like the close islands of the Maldives follow Sunni Islam. The islands were probably Buddhist before like they were in the Maldives.
Today Maliku is administered by India, but claimed by the Maldives. This claim was made in 1983, when the President of Maldives made a public speech claiming Maliku for the Maldives. Even today many Maldivians privately harbour such sentiments. At the same time India is overly cautious of any contact between people of Maliku and its Maldivian neighbours to the south.
An oral tradition of the Maldives (according to the late Magieduruge Ibrahim Didi, a Maldivian learned man) explains why Minicoy is not politically part of the Maldives anymore: Some time in the past (perhaps during the 17th century), Minicoy was devastated by a great cyclone which destroyed most houses and a great number of coconut trees. Following the catastrophe, a delegation of Minicoy islanders from the best families in the island sailed to the King in Male' asking for gold to help them through the hard times. However, the Maldive King told them that he had not enough money in his treasury and that he was not able to help them. Hence the delegation of Maliku nobles went onwards to the Malabar coast, where they found favor with the king of Cannanore (Kannur) who welcomed them and helped the Minicoy people to rebuild their island in exchange for their loyalty. Henceforth the Minicoy Islanders owed allegiance to this kingdom of the SW Indian shore.
Today, Maliku has a combined population of 9,500.
Under the Laccadive, Minicoy and Amindivi Islands (Laws) Regulations, 1967 of the Government of India, Maldivian nationals can only visit Maliku if they are permitted by the High Commissioner of India. The High Commissioner of India in Malé shall intimate the names of the persons whose visits are permitted and the period of their stay to the Administrator of Lakshadweep sufficiently in advance. The Administrator may, on valid grounds, extend the period of stay of Maldivain nationals.
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