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‘Ready to hand over security of Vizhinjam Port to centre’: Kerala govt tells HC after Adani Group said police protecting protestors, not the construction site

Adani group contended that the Kerala police have been protecting the group of protestors instead of its employees and hence demanded the deployment of central forces.

The Kerala State government told the High Court Friday that they are ready to hand over the security of the Vizhinjam Port area to the central forces. Now, after the Pinarai Vijayan government’s approval, the Kerala HC has sought the Centre’s stand on the issue.

The state government was replying to a petition filed by the Adani group requesting the deployment of central forces to maintain security in the port area. The plea came in the aftermath of the attack on the Vizhinjam police station in Kerala on Sunday night, wherein a group of protesters led by the Latin Catholic church damaged police cars and injured at least 29 police personnel in a demonstration against the construction of the Adani Group port.

The protests are led by the Vizhinjam Action Council, which is backed by the Latin Catholic Archdiocese. The protestors have blocked the road to the port construction site with temporary sheds, and are not allowing the movement of vehicles.

Police protecting protestors instead of the employees: Adani Group tells Kerala HC

The counsel representing the Adani group contended in court that the construction of the port in Vizhinjam is being hampered and that the state is not providing security to allow construction to proceed, and hence central forces should be assigned.

The counsel added that the Kerala police have been protecting the group of protestors instead of its employees involved in the construction of the Vizhinjam post, which, he maintained, was a violation of the court order. The High Court had directed the police to ensure that necessary police protection is granted to Adani Port employees to carry out the activities permitted in accordance with the contracts entered into by them.

Speaking further on the Kerala police’s reluctance to deal with the situation, Adani Group’s counsel informed the court that protesters were not allowing vehicles carrying building materials, including rock, to pass through to the port construction site. Regardless, the cops were seen standing as quiet spectators, clearly disregarding the court instructions, said the lawyer.

The Counsel added, “If the police are not in a position to give the protection, and at the same time, rule of law demands that the orders of the Court be protected if that be so, it is only imperative that we seek the assistance of Central force, which is a force of our country”He thus pleaded that at least the port area be guarded by the Central forces, while the remaining could be guarded by the police.

The Kerala High Court then asked the Additional Solicitor General for India to get instructions regarding the deployment of Central forces to maintain security in the port area.

Justice Anu Sivaraman directed both the State Government and the Central Government to discuss the matter and inform the Court regarding the steps taken.

The matter is now listed on Wednesday, December 7.

Amid criticism for not handling the situation, Kerala CM says Vizhinjam port project work to continue come what may

Meanwhile, amidst criticism for not being able to provide adequate protection to the Adani group employees, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Thursday that the project will be realised despite the ongoing protests.

Vijayan also said the agitations were with an “intention to destroy peace in the area” and assured stern action against those who were involved in the violence.

“We have made it clear that the project will be implemented come what may. Protesters, if they come in any dress or form, we are least worried. The government is committed and will not be cowed down by such threats,” he said.

While the left government has reaffirmed its support of the major port project, Viswa Hindu Parishath and Hindu Aikya Vedi took out a march on Wednesday in support of the project. They demanded that the culprits of the violence should be arrested. The Hindu activists also said that government should implement the high court order and expedite the construction of the port.

LDF sees a foreign hand behind the protests

The ruling Left Democratic Front in the meanwhile has alleged an international conspiracy against the construction of the Vizhinjam Port. LDF convener E.P. Jayarajan said that the conspirators are “hell-bent on denying Kerala its rightful place on the global trade map” to help other foreign entities, and he demanded an inquiry to identify these conspirators. Similarly, CPI(M) Kozhikode district secretary K. Mohanan said that attempts to block the project site to stop work have the makings of a deep-rooted and multinational plot.

The allegations of conspiracy behind the protests can be true, because NIA officials visited Vizhinjam on Wednesday to probe the circumstances that led to the violence. NIA is reportedly probing whether external forces were involved in the protests, during which the Vizhinjam police station was vandalised.

Mob led by Latin Catholic Church halts construction at Vizhinjam port

The Adani Group had approached the Kerala High Court in the wake of the attack on the Vizhinjam police station in Kerala on Sunday night, in which a group of protesters led by the Latin Catholic church damaged police cars and injured at least 29 police personnel in a demonstration against the construction of the Adani Group port. Protesters attempted to block a vehicle by smashing police jeeps. Two police officers reportedly suffered significant injuries. 

On Sunday, charges were filed against at least 15 Latin Catholic priests, including Archbishop Thomas J. Netto, Fr. Christudas, Fr. Eugine Perera, and Lawrence Gulas, in relation to violent clashes in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, between those who supported and opposed the harbour project.

Following the attack, the Court issued various orders requiring the police to provide Adani Port employees with the required police protection in order for them to carry out the operations permitted under the contracts they signed.

The Court made it clear that, while the protest can continue peacefully and lawfully, it cannot extend to impeding the petitioners’, its subcontractors’, workers’, or authorities’ access to and from the project site, or obstructing project activities without legal permission.

The Court has also stated multiple times that if the State government and police are unable to maintain peace and order in the area, required actions will be taken to seek suitable assistance from the central government. Since the protests showed no indications of abating, the Adani Group filed a contempt of court pleas.

The Vizhinjam Port

Vizhinjam Port is a major port project in India, and has strategic importance for the country. It will become India’s first container transhipment hub, which means India will no longer have to depend on Colombo port and Hambantota International Port in Sri Lanka for container transhipment. Vizhinjam Port is going to be a major container transhipment hub in the lucrative east-west trade route, and the Sri Lankan ports will see a drop in business after the Indian port is completed.

It is notable that Hambantota Port was constructed with funds from China, is a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and is jointly operated by China and Sri Lanka. Apart from the two ports in Sri Lanka, Vizhinjam Port will also compete with Dubai and Singapore.

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