Hindus counter Christian protest against Adani port in Kerala

Published November 30, 2022
Policemen are deployed as people from the fishing community protest near the entrance of proposed Vizhinjam Port in the southern state of Kerala, on Tuesday. — Reuters
Policemen are deployed as people from the fishing community protest near the entrance of proposed Vizhinjam Port in the southern state of Kerala, on Tuesday. — Reuters

VIZHINJAM: A Hindu group close to India’s ruling party will on Wednesday march in support of a $900 million port project by the Adani Group which has been stalled by Christian protesters, as tensions rise after clashes in which 80 people were injured.

Construction work at the project in Vizhinjam, in Kerala state, has been halted for almost four months by protesters from the fishing community, led by Catholic priests, blocking the site’s entrance with a makeshift shelter.

They blame the port’s development for coastal erosion that has hit their livelihoods, an accusation billionaire Gautam Adani’s conglomerate denies.

Supporters of the port, including members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party and Hindu groups, have set up their own shelters, as the two sides face off across the street. They say the port will create jobs in the region.

The port is of strategic importance to both India and Adani, Asia’s wealthiest man and the world’s third-richest. Once completed, it will become India’s first container transhipment hub, rivalling Dubai, Singapore and Sri Lanka for business on the lucrative east-west trade routes.

The march by the Hindu United Front on Wednesday will have more than 1,000 people calling for construction to resume, the group’s convener K P Sasikala said.

Kerala state police have already sent reinforcements to the Vizhinjam area after villagers stormed a police station in clashes that left 80 people injured, including 36 police.

A senior police official outside the port confirmed he was aware of the march plans of the Hindu United Front, adding they remain on high alert to prevent any possible clashes between protesters and supporters at the port entrance.

The protests have continued despite repeated orders by Kerala state’s top court to allow construction to restart. However, police have for weeks largely been unwilling to take action, fearful that doing so will set off social and religious tensions.

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2022

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