Violent demonstrations over a billionaire’s Kerala project, Adani Port

On Sunday night, a crowd stormed a police station in the southern Indian state of Kerala, wounding 36 policemen as months of protests over a port expansion turned violent.

Adani Ports and SEZ Ltd, owned by Asia’s richest man, Gautam Adani, is building the port.

Protesters, mostly local fisherman, claim that the $900 million (£744 million) project is causing coastal erosion and killing their livelihoods.

The charges have been disputed by the corporation.

Protests have been ongoing for more than 100 days, but have been mostly peaceful up until recently. Many of the demonstrators claim that coastal erosion has damaged their homes, forcing them to live in makeshift shelters.

However, the corporation has stated that the project conforms with environmental standards and that marine erosion is occurring as a result of climate change. The Kerala high court ruled last week that the protestors must follow its prior decision to enable “unhindered entry and egress” to the project site.

However, protestors prevented the company’s cars from approaching the construction site over the weekend, causing police to detain several of them.

Hundreds of protestors assaulted the local police station on Sunday night, resulting in fights with officers. “In the evening, a mob gathered at the police station and demanded the release of a few individuals who were imprisoned in another case,” a senior state police official told reporters, adding that 900 police officers had been deployed in the area.

A number of protestors were also hurt, and some police cars were destroyed. Police have charged over 3,000 people in connection with the violence.

However, Eugene H Pereira, a vicar general and one of the protest’s organisers, accused the police for agitating the protestors, who he stated “were ready to leave the area without causing any disturbance.” “The violence is the fault of the state government. They were doing it to clear the way for the demonstrators to be evicted forcibly “He said.

A state minister refuted this, accusing demonstrators of delaying the project despite the government’s agreement to satisfy their requests. “They want the port project, which is now in the works, to be entirely cancelled. But it will not benefit them at all “That is what he told the BBC.

Following the violence, the Adani Group moved the state’s high court, which ordered the government to produce a report on Monday.

On the condition of anonymity, an Adani executive told the BBC that the business had already sustained losses of roughly 800 million rupees ($9.8 million; £8.1 million) as a result of the disaster.

Adani Ports, India’s largest port operator, agreed to develop the port at Vizhinjam, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala’s capital city, in 2015.

The firm maintains nine feeder ports in India, and the Vizhinjam port is intended to cover all of its transhipment needs once it is completed. Because of its closeness to international shipping lines, it has stated that once finished, the port would be “India’s gateway to international transhipment.”

The port was supposed to open in 2019, but work was put on hold after a fatal hurricane devastated the state in 2017 and owing to a building material shortage. It will now open in September 2023. The opposition Congress party, which was in power at the time the pact was struck, said that the present administration “ignored” a rehabilitation programme for displaced individuals that was initially included in the accord.

“I’ve visited these shelters, and they’re in the most pitiful condition I’ve ever seen in my life,” said party head VD Satheesan.