Govt. doubles down on Vizhinjam port construction as police tighten screws on protesters

The State government has doubled down on its resolve to steam ahead with the Vizhinjam port construction, despite strong resistance from the Latin Catholic Archdiocese-backed Vizhinjam Action Council (VAC) activists agitating against the harbour’s completion since August.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s harsh censure of the violent protests against port construction at two public functions on Thursday indicates the government’s hardening stance against the agitators, predominantly Church-led fisherfolk families and coast dwellers.

Mr. Vijayan’s denunciation of VAC activists responsible for Sunday’s Vizhinjam police station attack comes a day before the High Court is scheduled to rule on a petition by Adani Ports against the government’s failure to provide police protection for harbour construction.

Mr. Vijayan said those who orchestrated the police station attack sought to destabilise the government and unleash anarchy in Kerala by sowing discord between different groups. He said the conspirators sought to force the police’s hand. But the force showed admirable restraint, despite sustaining significant injuries. They refused to play into the hands of those seeking to fan the flames of violence and sow discord.

Mr. Vijayan said going back on port construction would damage the State’s standing as an investment destination and emerging global business hub. He said the government had tided over similar resistance planned by vested interests against the GAIL pipeline project and national highway widening. It would strike the same course in Vizhinjam.

Meanwhile, the State police tightened the screws on the agitators by slapping more cases against the clergy spearheading the VAC instead of going for sweeping arrests.

They booked VAC convener Father Theodosius D’Cruz for attempting to create communal discord by using disparaging and divisive words to “demonise” Minister for Fisheries, Harbours, Wakf, and Haj Pilgrimage V. Abdurahiman. The police also registered two more cases against Latin Catholic Archbishop Thomas J. Netto in connection with the police station attack.

They booked Hindu Aikya Vedi activists, including P. Sasikala, for marching to the communally sensitive area in violation of police directives. The vedi is backing the port’s completion.

Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan decried the government’s penchant to brand Vizhinjam protesters as terrorists.

However, he argued against violent protests and accused the police of exacerbating the situation by slapping cases against the clergy and arresting residents indiscriminately. He dared Mr. Vijayan to negotiate directly with the agitators instead of despatching proxies.

Mr. Satheesan said the government was acting as the megaphone of the Central government-patronised Adani ports and the Left Democratic Front’s interests coalesced with that of the Bharatiya Janata Party national leadership.

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