FISHERMEN protest against Adani Group’s Vizhinjam International Seaport Limited stormed a local police station on Sunday night, demanding the release of five men who were detained in connection with Saturday’s violence.
Around 30 policemen were injured, several vehicles were damaged in the attack as tension prevailed in Vizhinjam area. The police resorted to batons and tear gas to disperse the coastal people, including women, who had besieged the police station. A large contingent of police has been mobilized in Vizhinjam and nearby areas.
Earlier in the day, police arrested Thiruvananthapuram Archbishop Thomas Neto, Auxiliary Bishop R. Christudas and several priests of the archdiocese in connection with Saturday’s violence during the fishermen’s protest. The archbishop was named as the first defendant in the First Information Report. Police subsequently arrested five fishermen in connection with Saturday’s violence, which saw fishermen come face-to-face with local Hindu groups demanding the completion of the Rs 7,500-crore seaport, which has been under construction since 2015.
The clergy were tried under various sections of the IPC, including criminal conspiracy (Section 120-B), rioting (Section 147), criminal trespass (Section 447) and assaulting public servants to prevent them from discharging official duties (Section 353) , among other charges. As many as nine cases have been registered against clerics and around 1,000 people who on Saturday prevented the Adani Group from resuming construction of the port, which had been halted for the past four months.
The convener of the Action Council, Father Eugene Pereira, said that provocation by the police had led to a worsening of the situation. “The police arrested the bishops and priests in the criminal case and accused them of conspiracy, although they did not participate in the agitation. Saturday’s violence was unleashed by Adani men (group) with the complicity of the police and the BJP. We want a peaceful solution to the problem,” he said.
Protesters from both sides were injured when they exchanged stones on Saturday. Over two dozen trucks carrying stones for the construction of the breakwater had to be turned back from the project site due to stiff resistance from the fishermen.
The Adani Group decided to resume construction from Saturday after a Supreme Court order barred agitators from obstructing work and asked the state government to provide police protection.
Leader of the Opposition VD Satheesan criticized the police action against the prelates, alleging that the government was trying to publicize the issue. “Vizhinjam tension is a conspiracy of the state government. The police have registered a case against the archbishop and other priests. If so, will the police file a case against the CPI(M) Chief Minister and State Secretary when CPI(M) people take part in protests and agitations. This is unprecedented. There is a nexus between CPI(M) and BJP in this project to protect the interest of Adani,” he said.