KOCHI, India: About 36 police officers were injured in clashes with protesters in the southern Indian state of Kerala demanding the release of a man arrested during a demonstration against a $900 million Adani Group port project, officials said.
The growing unrest is a major headache for Adani’s US$23 billion ports and logistics business. The port’s location at the southern tip of India is seen as key to winning business from ports in Dubai, Singapore and Sri Lanka.
Construction of the Vizhinjam seaport was halted for more than three months after protesters, mostly from the fishing community, blocked its entrance, blaming the development for coastal erosion and depriving them of their livelihood.
Over the weekend, protesters blocked Adani construction vehicles from entering the port despite a court order to resume work, leading to the arrest of many of them.
That prompted hundreds of others to gather at a police station on Sunday night to demand the release of one of those arrested, leading to clashes with police and damage to some of their vehicles, television news images and a police document showed.
“They came with deadly weapons and stormed the station and held the police hostage, threatening that if the people in custody were not released, they would set fire to the station,” police said in the incident document.
Many of the protesters were Christians, led by Roman Catholic priests.
Police attacked the protesters, who included priests, said a priest, Eugene H. Pereira, vicar general of the archdiocese.
“Stones were thrown even from the station,” said Pereira, who called for a judicial inquiry into the incident.
Adani Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.
It previously said the project was in compliance with all laws, citing studies in recent years that dismissed accusations linking it to shoreline erosion.
The state government blames the erosion on natural disasters.
(Writing by Aditya Kalra; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)