Kerala govt says violence by Vizhinjam port protesters unacceptable

Over 3,000 persons have been booked in connection with violent clashes that took place during an ongoing protest against the Adani port project in Kerala's Vizhinjam area on Sunday night.
Police vehicle torched by protestors
Police vehicle torched by protestors
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The attack on a police station in Vizhinjam area by a large mob, allegedly composed of those protesting against the Adani port construction, was termed as unacceptable by the Left government on Monday, November 28. Meanwhile, the Latin Catholic church has claimed that ‘outside forces’ were behind the attack and sought a judicial probe into the same. Kerala Minister of Ports Ahammed Devarkovil said that the government has been very patient till now where the protest was concerned, but if the agitation attains a ‘criminal nature’ — where police personnel are attacked and injured and police property is destroyed — that was unacceptable.

“Especially in a secular state like Kerala, we will not allow any kind of communal conflict,” the minister said, claiming that the mob had attacked houses and establishments of those not belonging to their community. “We will go to any extent to ensure communal harmony in the state,” the minister said while speaking to reporters in Kozhikode.

On being told that the Latin Catholic church, which is leading the protest against the port construction, has claimed that external forces were in play, Ahammed Devarkovil said that the government has received several reports in this regard and they are being investigated. He added that he can discuss the reports in detail only after the proceedings in the Kerala High Court on the issue gets over.

Meanwhile, Vicar General Eugene Pereira, who has been seen at the forefront of the protests, claimed that ‘outside forces’ were behind the port-related violence in the past two days and sought a judicial probe. He also said that the attack on the police station, injuries caused to the police personnel, and the damage to property were not justifiable. He said that before the violence took place, some women had gone to the police station to enquire about the persons who had been detained. They claimed that some outside forces interfered and caused damage to police vehicles, throwing stones from nearby houses, he added.

“Thereafter, things escalated and unfortunately resulted in the violence. I am not justifying the violence or injuries caused to the police personnel,” he said, speaking to the media in Thiruvananthapuram.

Finance Minister KN Balagopal pointed out that these unfortunate incidents of violence were happening when the project was at the finishing point. This is an important project for the state, he said, further expressing hope that the matter can be resolved amicably and the port construction can be completed in a time-bound manner.

Ahammed Devarkovil too said that the project, which cost around Rs 7,500 crore, was important for the overall development of the state and therefore its work cannot be stopped — as was one of the seven demands put forward by the anti-port protesters. “Five demands have been accepted. Besides the stopping of the port construction, the only other demand that remains was providing kerosene at subsidised rates to fisherfolk,” he said, adding that kerosene was provided by the Union government and hence it was not up to the state to provide it at subsidised rates.

The Ports Minister also blamed the protesters for not abiding by repeated orders of the Kerala High Court not to obstruct construction work or movement of materials for the project. “So if there is an action, there will be a reaction,” he said, but added that till date the government has not tried to suppress the protest by force, keeping in view its public nature and presence of women and children at its forefront. “However, we will have to implement court orders,” he said. He further stated that when the protesters were not abiding by court orders, it made no sense for them to seek a judicial enquiry into the incidents of violence.

Meanwhile, senior Congress leader and former Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president VM Sudheeran said the protesters were seeking a proper study of the impact and consequences of the project on the coastal regions, but it has been “twisted into an anti-port agitation”. “The state government should not be stubborn on the issue,” he said, and added that there should be an amicable and fair resolution to the problem.

Over 3,000 persons have been booked in connection with violent clashes during an ongoing protest against the Adani port project in Kerala's Vizhinjam area on Sunday night. Police said cases have been registered against 3,000 “identifiable persons” for vandalising a police station and injuring police personnel. As many as 36 police personnel were reported to be injured in the violence that ensued.

Earlier on Sunday, the state police lodged an FIR against at least 15 Latin Catholic priests, including metropolitan Archbishop Thomas J Netto and Pereira, over the violence at Vizhinjam.

Additional Director General of Police MR Ajith Kumar told the media that around 36 police personnel injured in the Sunday evening attack by the mob were admitted to various hospitals in Thiruvananthapuram.

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