At least 36 police officials sustained grievous injuries when a violent mob comprising fish workers protesting against the Adani Group-promoted under-construction ₹7,500-crore international transhipment port project attacked the Vizhinjam Police Station south of Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram late night on Sunday, 27 November.
The condition of two of the injured police officials — Constable Sarath Kumar and Sub-Inspector Liju P Mani — is said to be critical.
All the injured police officials have been shifted to the emergency wing of the local government medical college hospital.
They include the station house officer and an assistant commissioner of the Thiruvananthapuram City Police.
At least 30 protestors were also injured as the police repulsed the attack and the melee that followed.
The morning after
Meanwhile, South First learnt early on Monday, 28 November, that the police have registered an FIR against over 3,000 unnamed fish workers for attacking the police station.
It also released four of the five agitators whose arrest had sparked the violence.
An all-party peace meet is expected to be held today in Vizhinjam and the district collector has said he would try to ensure the participation of some ministers in it.
The matter will also come up in the Kerala High Court which will consider the Adani Group’s petition seeking help to restart the construction work.
Adani has also sought a ₹200 crore compensation. The government is expected to tell the court that the amount would be recovered from the Latin Catholic diocese.
What happened on Sunday night?
The protestors who laid siege to the police station on Sunday were demanding the release of five of their fellow agitators, who were arrested for their alleged role in the violence on Saturday as Adani Group employees resumed construction works of the port.
Sunday’s protesters also vandalised four police jeeps, two police vans, and 20 two-wheelers belonging to the duty officials. Local sources say they used iron bars, wooden planks, and stones in the attack.
The furniture of the police station was also destroyed in the violence, which broke out at around 8.30 pm.
Fr Eugine Pereira, the general convener of the agitation, told reporters at around 10.30 pm that he would make a statement on the situation only after getting complete information from those who went to the police station.
He is said to have sent a set of senior priests to adjacent Kovalam, where the district collector convened a conciliatory meeting.
Pereira told reporters after the first round of conciliatory talk with police and the district administration that the immediate priority was bringing back peace and normalcy.
He said the second round of talks, which extended into the early hours of Monday, would discuss responses from those who protested at the police station.
Tense situation in Vizhinjam
A tense situation prevailed in the region despite the police using teargas shells against the agitators.
Dispersed fish workers are regrouping fast, surrounding the police station even while this report was being filed.
Additional forces have been deployed in Vizhinjam and its surroundings, and city Police Commissioner G Spurjan Kumar is directly leading the counteractions.
The area continued to witness large-scale stone-pelting targeting the police. The protestors gathered there included priests of the Latin Catholic Community and several women.
They all are shouting slogans saying they would not backtrack without securing the release of the five persons arrested for Saturday’s violence.
Eyewitnesses said the whole station premises turned into a battlefield when the protestors pelted stones, and police countered them using teargas shells.
A local visual-media journalist who was on duty also sustained injuries. The agitators took away and destroyed his camera and cell phone.
Meanwhile, the state government has imposed a ban on the sale of alcohol under the Vizhinjam police station limits.
Legal trouble for protesters
Earlier in the day, the state police lodged cases against at least 15 Latin Catholic priests, including the metropolitan Archbishop Thomas J Netto, over the violence reported on Saturday.
On Sunday, the massive agitation against the port project by the local fish workers raising livelihood and environmental concerns entered its 131st day.
Marking the occasion, pastoral letters were read out in all the churches under the Latin Catholic diocese on Sunday, saying there would not be any going back from the agitation till halting the construction works pending the completion of a scientific study by an independent team of scientists and coastal experts.
Claimed to be the country’s first container transhipment port with international standards, the Vizhinjam project aims to plug into the shipping trade between juggernaut manufacturers in the East and wealthy consumer markets in the West.
For the last three months, the construction works were stalled following the intense agitation by the fish workers of the region, primarily members of the Latin Catholic community.
The protestors say the under-construction project was causing large-scale sea erosion in the region, depriving them of their livelihood.
Hundreds of houses and community spaces of the fish workers have been washed away in surging sea waters since the construction works began four years ago.