A day after violent clashes, Vizhinjam protesters vow to strengthen the fight

The protest, which entered the 132nd day on November 28, is kept alive by people from different parishes of the Latin Catholic Church in the region, who flock to the site every day.
Protestors at Vizhinjam
Protestors at Vizhinjam
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An uneasy calm prevailed in Vizhinjam on Monday, a day after the coastal village, where a multi-purpose seaport built by the Adani group is coming up, was rocked by violent clashes that left scores of people including police officers injured. From a makeshift pandal at Mulloor in Vizhinjam, only two kilometres away from the police station which was attacked on Sunday, November 27, a group of protesters stood listening to speeches by priests.

There was heavy deployment of police personnel and no untoward incidents were reported on Monday. The agitation by fisherfolk, under the leadership of the Latin Catholic Church, took an ugly turn on Saturday after protesters allegedly blocked trucks carrying construction material to the project site on Saturday.

The protests against the port had intensified after the High Court on November 22 said that the protesters need to comply with its orders regarding unhindered access to the project site. An FIR was filed on Sunday naming around 15 catholic priests, including the Metropolitan Archbishop Thomas J Netto. Cases were also registered against Auxiliary bishop Christudas and Vicar General Eugine Pereira.

Father Davidson Justus, Assistant Vicar of Poonthura parish, said that everything was normal till Saturday. “On Saturday, we were blocked by people who were opposed to our agitation in front of the police. They showered abuse on us and started throwing stones. That is how it all began. On Sunday, the police arrested one of the protesters and some of us went to the police station to ask why he was arrested. These people were also arrested. Some priests and committee members who went to the police station were also arrested. They did not carry any weapons,” he said. The Church has blamed external elements for the clashes on Saturday.

A mob on Sunday night attacked the Vizhinjam police station allegedly using sticks and bricks. An FIR has been lodged against 3,000 persons including identifiable women and children under IPC sections 143, 145, 147, 149, 188, 120-B, 153, 447 and 353. The attack caused a loss of Rs 85 lakh as per the FIR. A case has also been registered under section 3(2) (e) of the Prevention of Damage to Public property Act. Kerala government has termed the violence as unacceptable.

On Sunday, Valsan Thillankery, President, Hindu Aikya Vedi, said they would take out a march to Vizhinjam on Wednesday to protest against the agitation led by the Latin Catholic Church.

“We have gathered here not to make trouble. Outsiders may say that the fisher community is uneducated and not well-informed. We are peaceful but we will react if someone hurts us. The sea is our source of livelihood and we are not ready to give it to some individual. Whatever happens, we won’t allow the project to materialise. We don’t want the port,” Blousy, a resident of the area, told TNM.

The protest, which entered the 132nd day on November 28, is kept alive by people from different parishes of the Latin Catholic Church in the region, who flock to the site every day. On Monday, the majority of participants were from the Poonthura parish. The speakers, some of whom are priests, told the protesters that God was with them and won’t let them down.

“This protest is for the survival of fisherfolk. If the port is realised, our livelihood, house and property would all be lost,” says Martin, a fisherman.

The Rs 7,700 crore International Deepwater Multipurpose Seaport project is being constructed by Adani Vizhinjam Port Private Limited (AVPPL), the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) unit of Adani Ports.

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