Tension grips Vizhinjam as pro- and anti-port supporters clash

The violence ensued when Latin Catholic Archdiocese-backed anti-port activists stopped dumper trucks ferrying material to the Vizhinjam project site.

November 26, 2022 01:05 pm | Updated 07:05 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Protesters led by the Latin Archdiocese, Thiruvananthapuram, blocking the way of trucks laden with building material to the construction site of the Vizhinjam Port, here, on Saturday, November 26, 2022.

Protesters led by the Latin Archdiocese, Thiruvananthapuram, blocking the way of trucks laden with building material to the construction site of the Vizhinjam Port, here, on Saturday, November 26, 2022. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A raucous confrontation between two groups of local residents arrayed for and against Vizhinjam port imperilled public peace on Saturday, November 26, 2022, in the communally sensitive coastal locality, about 20 km south of Thiruvananthapuram city.

The violence ensued when Latin Catholic Archdiocese-backed anti-port activists stopped dumper trucks ferrying material to the project site.

Another group allied against the Latin Catholic agitators rallied against the protestors and attempted to clear the way for the lorries.

The stand-off descended into chaos, with both groups attacking each other with stones and sticks.

A few attempted to storm the agitation shed erected by anti-port construction activists.

A large posse of police officers in riot gear pushed into the jostling crowd and formed a shield wall to separate the rival factions.

They also ensured a safe passage for the truck convoy to a different location.

Vizhinjam port | In troubled waters

The clash capped months of brewing resentment swirling around the Vizhinjam port’s breakwater construction.

The Latin Catholic protestors have been on the warpath against the port since August.

Concern over fishing operations

They believed the breakwater construction had exacerbated coastal erosion and rendered the littoral waters choppy, jeopardising everyday fishing operations.

Scores of fishers had lost their dwellings to the encroaching sea. Subsequently, port opponents laid siege to the harbour and halted construction activity.

The State government’s attempt to break the impasse failed, with the Church insisting that the administration cease all construction activity till an independent agency evaluated the social, economic and environmental fallout of the State’s flagship undertaking.

The government said it could ill afford to cease construction activity, ordered an impact study, promised to rehabilitate displaced fishers and announced measures to protect their livelihood.

The administration’s entreaties failed to assuage the Church-backed protestors, who pressed on with their blockade of the project site.

Consequently, the Adani Vizhinjam Port Private Limited, the firm contracted by the state government to construct the international transhipment container on a design, build, finance, operate and transfer basis (DBFOT) basis, moved the High Court seeking police protection to go ahead with the project and meet the deadline set by the administration.

The High Court endorsed the Church supporter’s right to protest. Nevertheless, it prevented the agitators from impeding construction, trespassing on the project site or vandalising public property.

The counsel for the strikers deposed that the agitators would not impede construction activity or movement of building materials to the project site.

The police rushed reinforcements to the locality, and roads to Vizhinjam remained blocked.

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