June 6, 2023, Tuesday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Mob storms police station in India protest

The Nepal Weekly
November 29, 2022

A mob stormed a police station in the southern Indian state of Kerala on Sunday, injuring  three dozen police officers, as months of protests against a port project turned violent.

The port is being built by Adani Ports and SEZ Ltd, owned by Asia’s richest man, Gautam Adani. Protesters, mostly fishermen, have alleged that the $900m project is causing coastal erosion and destroying their livelihoods. The company has denied the allegations.

The protests have continued for more than 100 days but had been largely peaceful until now. Many of the protesters say their homes have been destroyed by coastal erosion, forcing them to live in temporary shelters.

The company, however, has said that the project complies with environmental laws and that sea erosion is occurring due to climate change. Last week, the Kerala high court had said that the protesters must comply with its earlier order to allow “unhindered ingress and egress” to the project site.

But over the weekend, hundreds of protesters blocked the company’s vehicles from entering the construction site, prompting police to arrest some of them.

On Sunday night, protesters stormed the local police station, leading to clashes with the police. Several protesters were also injured, and some police vehicles were damaged. But Eugene H Pereira, a vicar general who was one of the convenors of the protest, blamed the police for provoking the protesters who, he said “were ready to leave the area without creating any trouble”. A state minister denied this, and accused the protesters of stalling the project even after the government had agreed to meet their demands.

An Adani official told the BBC on condition of anonymity that the company has suffered damages of around 800m rupees ($9.8m; £8.1m) so far due to the blockade, which has gone on for more than 104 days.

Adani Ports, India’s largest port operator, signed the agreement in 2015 to build the port at Vizhinjam in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala’s capital city. The company operates nine feeder ports across India and the Vizhinjam port is expected to meet all its transhipment requirements once ready.

The port, once completed, would be “India’s gateway to international transhipment” due to its proximity to international shipping routes. The port was initially scheduled to be opened in 2019 but work was delayed after a deadly cyclone hit the state in 2017, and due to a shortage in construction material. It is now set to open in September 2023.