Police slap grave charges against anti-Vizhinjam port agitators, including priests, for Saturday violence

Protestors block movement of granite (rock stone) laden trucks to the Vizhinjam project site in front of the main gate on November 26, 2022. Photo: Manorama.

Thiruvananthapuram: The Vizhinjam police on Sunday slapped cases against both anti- and pro-Vizhinjam Port agitators for the violence that erupted after the Latin Church-led anti-port protesters blocked a convoy of 25 trucks carrying granite to the port site on November 26, Saturday. The trucks were blocked at the entrance of the port.

The blockade escalated into fistfights and stone pelting after pro-port agitators quickly descended at the port entrance. The violence had left more than 20 injured, at least 16 of the injured belonged to the anti-port group. It was the 130th day of their indefinite protest.

Priests leading the anti-port protesters, including the convenor of the agitation Fr Eugene Pereira, were also booked under various charges including conspiracy, incitement to violence and even attempt to murder. However, only one case for violence has been taken against the pro-port local collective, which has its protest venue on the other side of the road leading to the port entrance.

According to the police, the charges were slapped on the basis of complaints it had received from the local people. There were complaints that many houses at Mulloor, the coastal village near Vizhinjam where the entrance to the port is situated, were damaged as a result of stone-pelting by the anti-port protesters.

Moreover, the police said that the High Court had ordered that nothing should be allowed to impede construction work.

On the other hand, Fr Pereira accused the LDF government of conspiring with certain sections of the locals to unleash violence on the protesters. According to him, it was a peaceful protest that the anti-port agitators had staged. But he said the other group had hurled obscenities and stones at the anti-port agitators with the sole intention of provoking them. Their intention was to subdue us by force, Fr Pereira said. Pereira is the vicar general of the Latin Archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram which is spearheading the protests.

In this backdrop, sources close to Adani Vizhinjam Port Limited (AVPL) said that work on the port would be halted. The company wants the Court to take a call as it was the assurance of the High Court that had prompted the company to resume construction.

The protesters had on November 22 assured the high court that they will not block any vehicles coming to the Vizhinjam seaport. The high court had on that day warned the protesters that stern action will be taken against them if they failed to remove the obstructions.

The Adani Group, which is constructing the seaport, said the works restarted on Saturday based on the high court order.

The port, a Kerala government initiative, is currently being developed in a landlord model with a Public Private Partnership component on a design, build, finance, operate and transfer (DBFOT) basis. The private partner, Adani Vizhinjam Port Private Limited, commenced the construction on December 5, 2015 with a cost of Rs 7,525 crore.

The Vizhinjam International Transhipment Deepwater Multipurpose Seaport authorities had said that 70 percent of the work has now been completed.

The protesters have been demanding that the construction of the deepwater port be stopped and a proper environmental impact study should be carried out.

They have also put forward six other demands including rehabilitation of families who lost their homes to sea erosion, steps to mitigate coastal erosion, financial assistance to fisherfolk on days weather warnings are issued, compensation to families of those who lose their lives in fishing accidents, subsidised kerosene, and a mechanism to dredge the Muthalapozhi fishing harbour in Anchuthengu in Thiruvananthapuram district.

Earlier, the state government had made it clear that almost all the demands of the protesters were met except the halting of the construction work at the port.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.