NIA sleuths arrive at Vizhinjam to probe violence, 163 cases registered

Vizhinjam Police Station Clash
Police vehicle vandalized by protestors at Vizhinjam police station after cops refused to release those in custody on November 27, 2022. Photo: Manorama

Thiruvananthapuram: Sleuths of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrived at Vizhinjam on Wednesday to probe the circumstances that led to the violence here over the weekend.

They visited the Vizhinjam police station to reportedly examine whether external forces were involved in the protests, which led to an irate mob vandalising the

Vizhinjam police station, demanding the release of five men arrested as part of the violence on November 26 at the entrance to the port site.

Police registered 163 cases in connection with the incident.

Meanwhile, DIG R Nishanthini, who is heading the special police squad probing the violent incidents, said external involvement cannot be confirmed yet.

Nobody has been arrested so far in connection with the incident.

At least 50 people, including policemen and media persons were injured at the incident, as per reports. Two police jeeps and a shed were also destroyed.

Envisaged as the country's first container transhipment port, the $900 million project seeks to plug into the lucrative shipping trade flowing between juggernaut manufacturers in the East and wealthy consumer markets in the West, according to a Reuters report.

Fisherfolk in the region has been demanding a halt to the port's construction, an environmental impact study, and rehabilitation of families who lost their homes.

Protestors say the port construction has led to sea erosion endangering their livelihood. The influential Latin Catholic Church is spearheading the agitation.

Case against Fr Theodosius D'Cruz 
Fr Theodosius D'Cruz of the Latin Church, who made an allegedly communal remark against Minister V Abdurahiman recently in connection with the Vizhinjam incident, apologised on Tuesday. 

He said that the statement was a slip of tongue. The Latin Church also expressed regret in the statement. However, the INL State Committee filed a case against him with Vizhinjam Police.

To Abdurahiman's comment that the Vizhinjam protest is led by anti-nationals, the priest had said that the minister's name in itself is problematic. 

Sunday's protest
The top leadership of the Latin Archdiocese Thiruvananthapuram was collectively arraigned as the prime accused in 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 FIR drawn up by the Vizhinjam police shows Archbishop Fr Thomas J Netto himself as the first accused.

The Auxiliary Bishop, Fr Christudas Rajappan, is the second accused and the convenor of the agitation Fr Eugene Pereira is the third.

There were reports that the Church-led anti-port protesters were not even allowing ambulances with injured policemen to move.

When more people started to converge in Vizhinjam, and the situation seemed to spiral out of control, the police resorted to throwing tear gas shells, and later even grenades, to disperse the crowd that had no intention of turning back until their demand was met.

As the standoff intensified, strict directions were issued against more use of force.

A special police squad under Thiruvananthapuram Range DIG R Nishanthini was constituted to maintain law and order in the area.

Seven Superintendents of Police (SPs) have also been appointed to assist the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police. Around 700 police personnel have been deployed in the area.

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