More than 30 police officers injured, 3,000 booked in clashes with Adani port protesters in India

New sea port construction sparks fresh spree of demonstrations

Stuti Mishra
Monday 28 November 2022 15:34 GMT
Police officers are deployed as fishermen protest near the entrance of the proposed Vizhinjam Port in Kerala
Police officers are deployed as fishermen protest near the entrance of the proposed Vizhinjam Port in Kerala (Reuters)

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Over 3,000 people have been charged over an attack on a police station in India’s southern Kerala state after massive protests erupted against the construction of a new sea port by the multi-billion conglomerate Adani group.

The project is controversial as it is believed to be a threat to the local environment, with construction halted for four months, only to have begun again recently, leading to protests.

The police in Kerala on Monday registered a case against 3,000 identifiable persons, most of whom were local fishermen, after a police station in Vizhinjam city was attacked.

As many as 36 police personnel and 20 protesters were injured in the violence on Sunday night.

The complaint, according to The Indian Express newspaper, said that a massive group of protesters laid siege to the police station, held the officials hostage for several hours, vandalised furniture and damaged several vehicles parked on the premises of the station.

Police said the protesters were demanding the release of five people arrested on Saturday in connection with the ongoing protests and allegedly threatened to torch the officers alive if their demands were not met. The station incurred losses of around Rs 8m (£81,000).

Activists, however, allege the arrests were arbitrary and included people who had nothing to do with the demonstrations.

“The police took into custody a person who was not involved in Saturday’s attack,” Vizhinjam action council convener Eugene Pereira told The Indian Express.

“Later, when four others went to the station to enquire about the custody of a fisherman, they were also detained at the station.”

The violence was in continuation with recent demonstrations held in the city against the Rs 75bn port project by Adani group, owned by Gautam Adani, who was named the third richest person in the world this year by Forbes rankings.

The locals protesting against the port allege that its construction could cause massive sea erosion and lead to a loss of their dwellings and livelihoods, The Indian Express reported.

The construction of the project was halted for four months, but protests took a violent and communal turn recently when construction resumed.

Locals on Saturday tried to stop the construction, with Thiruvananthapuram city’s Latin Catholic diocese supporting the demonstrations by the Christian fishing community while Hindu organisations supported the construction by the billionaire, local media outlets reported.

The incident ended in clashes with the police arresting five men and registering cases against an archbishop and 13 priests.

Kerala’s port development minister Ahamed Devarkovil said they will hold discussions with the locals and wait for an order by the state high court, which had previously given the go-ahead for the construction of the port.

“The issue is coming up before the high court on Monday. The government would also consider the outcome from the high court before deciding further action,” he said.

“The agitators had given an assurance at the high court that they would not obstruct the construction. Now, that assurance to the court has been breached.”

The local police said the situation is under control now and no violence erupted on Monday. Four of the five people arrested in the violence were released on bail, the newspaper reported.

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