Vizhinjam port project work to continue come what may: Kerala CM

Published on Dec 01, 2022 11:39 PM IST

Kerala CM’s remarks came a day after protesters on Sunday vandalised Vizhinjam police station and forcibly released four people who were arrested last week

Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan said the agitations were with an “intention to destroy peace in the area” and assured stern action against those who were involved in the violence. (HT PHOTO)
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan said the agitations were with an “intention to destroy peace in the area” and assured stern action against those who were involved in the violence. (HT PHOTO)

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday condemned the recent violence over the development of a trans-shipment terminal by Adani Group at south Kerala’s Vizhinjam and said the project will be realised despite the ongoing protests.

Vijayan also said the agitations were with an “intention to destroy peace in the area” and assured stern action against those who were involved in the violence.

“We have made it clear that the project will be implemented come what may. Protesters, if they come in any dress or form, we are least worried. The government is committed and will not be cowed down by such threats,” he said.

Vijayan’s remarks came days after protesters on Sunday vandalised Vizhinjam police station and forcibly released four people who were arrested last week. They also held policemen hostage for several hours and attacked government and private vehicles. Police resorted to lathi charge and tear gas to disperse the mob. As many as 36 police personnel and 30 people were injured in the incident.

“The protestors are taking the agitation to another level. They even tried to find fault with the name of minister V Abdurahiman and even dubbed him an anti-national. What does it mean? Their intentions are different,” he said.

On Monday, police said property worth over 1 crore were damaged in the clashes and 3,000 people were booked in the case.

Breaking his silence on the violence on Thursday, Vijayan said: “There were ulterior motives behind the attack on the police station. It was done with the intention of destroying peace in the area. Some of them even made open threats.”

“Some of them made open threats to attack and torch police stations. No doubt, these incidents show specific motives,” he said, adding the government will take strict action against perpetrators of violence.

The chief minister praised the police personnel for the handling of the issue. “Many expected the police to come down heavily on the protesters but that would have created more problems. The way they tackled the situation is really commendable,” he said.

Vijayan’s remarks came amid criticisms by opposition parties and right-wing groups that the government was going easy with the protesters and priests of the Latin Catholic church which is spearheading the agitation due to “appeasement politics”.

In an affidavit in the high court on Thursday, Kerala police alleged the priests were directly involved in the violence and church bells were rung on Sunday to mobilise protestors.

On Monday, the Adani Group told the court that Sunday’s violence was premeditated and reiterated its demand for deployment of central forces to ensure resumption of the project. The court directed the state government to take all steps to maintain law and order and posted the matter for hearing on Friday.

The Congress reacted sharply to Vijayan’s remarks. “The chief minister and his party members are in a race to brand poor fishermen anti-nationals. They were provoked by the government and police that led to the violence. We will not justify the violence but one should see what led to it,” opposition leader V D Satheesan said.

Police said they have registered more than 175 cases in connection with Sunday’s violence. Archbishop Thomas J Netto was booked for alleged conspiracy.

A separate case under non-bailable provisions was registered against convenor of Vizhinjam protest committee Father Theodosius D’Cruz, who recently called fisheries minister V Abdurahiman “a big anti-national and rabid communal”.

While the priest later retracted his statement, police said “his intention was to communalise the whole issue”. He has been booked for provoking the public and dividing the people on communal lines, police said.

Police also registered cases against Hindu Munnani leader K P Sasikala and 700 others for holding a protest rally against the church near the port site despite prohibitions.

“We have started identifying the trouble-makers. They will be arrested soon,” state director general of police Anil Kant said. Asked whether police suspected the role of any foreign elements, Kant said all aspects will be investigated.

Several leaders of the ruling party, in the past, alleged “outside forces” were behind the agitation. Left Democratic Front convener E P Jayarajan said attempts to scuttle the port project will “benefit only foreign forces”.

Jayarajan also sought a probe into a “multinational conspiracy” to sabotage the project.

CPI(M) Kozhikode district secretary P Mohanan sought a probe into the funding of the protesters.

Several right-wing groups and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alleged the “government was soft towards trouble makers and it was part of the CPI(M)’s appeasement politics for votes.”

A large number of coastal people have been agitating, mostly outside the main entrance of the multi-purpose seaport located at nearby Mulloor in Thiruvananthapuram, since August 16, against the port project.

The protesters allege the unscientific construction of groynes, the artificial sea walls known as “pulimutt” in local parlance, as part of the port was one of the reasons behind increasing coastal erosion in the district. They also claim that large-scale construction and breakwater projects are affecting the livelihood of the coastal people and that the government has failed to deliver its promises on rehabilitation.

The first phase of the project was expected to be commissioned by October 2019 but it was delayed due to cyclone Ockhi in 2017 and the Covid-19 pandemic starting 2020. The next deadline is September 2023.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

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