Kerala Government Condemns Vizhinjam Harbour Violence, CPI(M) Calls for Peace
Police personnel deployed to maintain law and order after a mob of agitators attacked Vizhinjam police station following the arrest of one person in connection with violent protests against the construction of Adani port, in Thiruvananthapuram, Sunday, Image Courtesy: PTI
Kerala’s Left Democratic Front (LDF) government has condemned Sunday’s violence in Vizhinjam region, where fishermen are protesting the construction of the Vizhinjam International Seaport Limited (VISL).
In a clash between protesters, led by the Latin Catholic Archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram and the police and port supporters, the Vizhinjam Police Station was attacked, five police vehicles were damaged and around 40 cops injured.
The police have filed 10 cases, including against the Bishop of the Archdiocese and 3,000 others, for the violence and the damage to public property. The Archdiocese has demanded a judicial inquiry alleging that external forces incited the violence.
The state secretariat of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) too condemned the violence and called for peace in the region.
VIOLENCE FOLLOWING ARREST
Around 2,000 members of the fishing community vandalised the police station late Sunday night and injured 40 cops, including two officers, and damaged five vehicles. The police booked archbishop Thomas J Netto and 15 priests, including auxiliary bishop Christudhas Rajappan, among others for the violence.
Earlier on Sunday, the police had detained a few people following a minor clash between pro- and anti-harbour people. The protestors had blocked the construction, leading to the scuffle, despite the written assurance in the High Court (HC) on November 22. Subsequently, the protestors marched up to the police station demanding their release.
Video footage of the protesters changing the direction of the CCTV camera at the police station has emerged. Houses of some of the pro-harbour people were also attacked.
Kerala minister of ports Ahammed Devarkovil said that the government has been “very patient” but if the agitation acquires a “criminal nature”—where police personnel are attacked and their property is destroyed—it is “unacceptable”, the PTI reported.
VIOLENCE CONDEMNED, ALL-PARTY MEETING CONVENED
According to the protesters, the construction has affected the coastal ecosystem. They have requested the government to conduct a proper environmental impact study, and have demanded rehabilitation of families who lost their houses to sea erosion, measures to mitigate coastal erosion and financial assistance to fishermen on days of weather warnings.
Minister for education V Sivankutty told the media that the government has fulfilled all their demands except calling off the construction. “It is impossible to halt the work since the project is very important for the development of the state,” he said.
The CPI(M) state secretariat in a statement condemned the attack on the police station. “Those conspiring to trigger a riot in Vizhinjam should shelve their evil intentions. Common people are deserting the protests. Action to create tension in the coastal region by inciting violence are now being carried out in the name of strikes,” the statement read.
The Archdiocese alleged that the government has “scripted the violence” and demanded a judicial inquiry to identify the “external forces” creating the tension.
Meanwhile, a video of the vicar of Puthiyathura Parish, where the protest is being held, surfaced on social media in which he was seen defying the HC order and instigating the protestors.
The district administration called for an all-party meeting on Monday even as an uneasy calm prevails in Vizhinjam. The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation has stopped all services from the Vizhinjam depot considering the prevailing situation.
DIFFERENCE OF OPINION IN PROTEST COMMITTEE?
Malayalam daily Kerala Kaumudi reported on “differences” in the protest committee regarding dialogue with the government and ending the protest. The Archdiocese’s representatives did not attend the scheduled talks with chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on November 25 despite a meeting between the CMO and Netto the previous day.
The project was signed during the regime of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), which is now vehemently opposing it. The CPI(M) ridiculed the UDF stand and accused the front of attempting to undermine the LDF government’s achievements in coastal areas.
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