Vizhinjam stir: Police identify 1,400 people including women, children and priests behind violence

Fisherfolk gather at Vizhinjam for the 100th day of protest. Photo: Manoj Chemancheri/Manorama

Kochi: In a significant move over the Vizhinjam issue, the Kerala Government has informed the High Court that it had no objection to deploying Central security forces to maintain law and order in the Adani port project area. Subsequently, Justice Anu Sivaraman of the Kerala High Court sought the opinion of the Central Government on the matter.

The court also directed both governments to discuss details regarding deployment of Central forces and inform the court.

The case was also posted to December 7 for the next hearing.

During Friday’s hearing, state attorney N Manoj Kumar told the court that cases were registered against five persons for indulging in violence. A case was registered against the Archbishop of the Latin Church also, said the attorney.

All measures, except police firing, were resorted to in order to curb the violent protests. If firing had taken place, hundreds of people would have died, the attorney told the court.

The situation would be no different even if Central forces were present in the area at that time, he added.

Meanwhile, Adani’s advocate informed the court that its order not to trespass into the port project area had been violated.

The violence was so intense that 64 police personnel were injured, he said. Moreover, the Kerala Police were not even giving an assurance to enforce the court order. If the police could not tackle the situation, the state government should seek the services of Central forces shedding its ego, said Adani’s lawyer.

Procedure involved
For deployment of Central forces, a formal request has to be placed by the state government. This request could be sent by the Chief Secretary or Director General of Police.

Security of international ports and airports in India is managed by the CISF (Central Industrial Security Force). However, as the Vizhinjam project is yet to be completed, CISF has no powers now to take over the security of the area on its own.

Police deployment
Kerala government has currently posted around 700 police personnel in the trouble-torn Vizhinjam area. Services of two superintendents of police (SPs) have also been made available by the Thiruvananthapuram City Police Commissioner G Sparjan Kumar.

‘1,400 rioters identified’
Kerala Police officers said that they had so far registered 189 cases in connection with the attack on the Vizhinjam police station and identified 1,400 persons, including women, children and priests, who were allegedly behind the incident.

Earlier, the police had charged over 4,000 identifiable persons with various sections of the IPC, including murder attempt, over the violence.

A special police squad has been constituted under DIG R Nishanthini to ensure law and order, while a separate team under deputy commissioner K Lalji is engaged in pursuing the cases registered.

More cases against Archbishop
The police have decided to register more cases against Archbishop Dr Thomas J Netto and others over the violence.

At present, the Archbishop is named as an accused in five cases, including conspiracy.

Ministers contest  claim
Minister for Transport Antony Raju has said that there was no evidence that external forces were involved in the Vizhinjan violence.

Incidentally, such a claim was raised by other state ministers and leaders of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF).

A news report in the mouthpiece of CPM, the leading party in the LDF, had also alleged extremist links to the agitation against Vizhinjam port and published photos of nine persons.

One among the nine was A J Vijayan, a coastal researcher and brother of Antony Raju.

‘LDF govt toeing Modi line’
A J Vijayan accused the LDF government of following the policies of the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre over the Vizhinjam issue.

“The Pinarayi Government is dealing with the Vizhinjam stir similar to how Modi tackled the farmers’ agitation,” he said.

“Allegations of extremist links reveal the weakness of the state government,” said Vijayan.

Vijayan also said that he did not want any consideration as Minister Antony Raju’s brother. “Even while Raju was earlier in the United Democratic Front, I had opposed the Vizhinjam project,” he said.

The stir since August
The Vizhinjam Port project has been envisaged as the country's first container transhipment port and the $900 million project seeks to plug into the lucrative shipping trade between the manufacturing powerhouses 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 Latin Catholic Church is spearheading the agitation.

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