'Terrorist' angle given to the protests and registering of cases against priests meant to provoke the fishermen's community, says Congress.
The Opposition Congress in Kerala on Friday, 2 December, called the anti-seaport agitators at Vizhinjam “victims of development” and alleged a conspiracy between the Adani Port authorities and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to isolate them before the society.
The government’s bid to give a “terrorist” angle to the ongoing protests and to register cases even against the Latin Catholic priests were part of their plans to provoke the local fishermen community and thus give the Adani Group an upper hand in the case pending before the High Court, it said.
Rubbishing the charges, the ruling CPI(M), however, said no one is against any form of democratic protests but the recent violent incidents including the attack against the local police station were “pre-planned” ones.
The Marxist party also expressed confidence that the people of the state would reject the malicious campaign against the government and the communal propaganda being unleashed by a section of Latin Catholic priests in the name of the fishermen’s community.
Addressing the media in Kochi, Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly VD Satheesan said four ministers had alleged terrorist connections against the anti-seaport stir.
He asked whether the ministers had any intelligence report in this regard and urged the government to release it in public if they have any such document.
Ministership is a responsible position and they could not simply level serious charges against such an agitation, he said.
“The chief minister was talking about a conspiracy. But, the real conspiracy has happened between the Adani port authorities and the chief minister,” Satheesan alleged. It was to portray the agitation of fishermen as a violent protest before the court and thus achieve a favourable verdict for the port authorities, he further said.
Calling the agitating fishermen the “victims of development”, he said it is the responsibility of a democratic government to ensure their rehabilitation.
“Many of them have been living in a cement godown for the past four years and if the chief minister really wished, the agitation could have been ended in just two hours,” he added.
The Congress leader also wanted the Left government to take immediate steps to shift those living in godowns to rented houses and to include a representative of the protesters in the panel which is entrusted to study the coastal erosion in the region.
However, CPI (M) state secretary MV Govindan attacked the anti-seaport agitators and the Latin Church, which leads the protest, and said the recent violent incidents were executed with “clear pre-planning”.
Earlier, the Church itself had strongly argued for the port but now they have changed the stand, he claimed.
“The government has accepted six demands put forward by the agitators. But their seventh demand was to stop the construction work of the port and it cannot be accepted. The port project is essential for the development of the state and Thiruvananthapuram in particular,” he said.
Slamming the priests who give a lead to the protests, the Left leader said the recent communal remarks made by one of them against Fisheries Minister V Abdurahiman could not be considered as “just a slip of tongue”.
Meanwhile, the Latin Catholic church alleged the intervention of “external forces” in the recent violent incidents in connection with the protests and demanded a judicial probe to unfold the truth.
Fr Eugine Pereira, the chairman of the protest committee, charged that the violent incidents had happened as per the script of the government and police.
He accused the chief minister and his cabinet colleagues of calling the fishermen, who had played saviours during the time of recent floods, as “anti-nationals” and “terrorists”.
The priest also said the fishermen’s community could not be intimidated and suppressed and they would not backtrack from their demand to stop the construction of the port.
Fisherfolk of Vizhinjam and other coastal areas have been protesting for more than four months against the under-construction seaport, which also led to violence on 26 and 27 November.
The protesters attacked Vizhinjam police station on the night of 27 November, injuring several police personnel.
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