Kerala govt terms mob attack on police station unacceptable; church seeks judicial probe

Kerala Minister of Ports Ahammed Devarkovil said the government has been very patient till now where the protest was concerned, but if the agitation attains a criminal nature, that was unacceptable

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The attack on a police station in the Vizhinjam area by a large mob, allegedly of those protesting against the Adani port construction, was termed as "unacceptable" by the Left government on Monday, while the Latin Catholic church claimed, "outside forces" were behind it and sought a judicial probe into it.

Kerala Minister of Ports Ahammed Devarkovil said the government has been "very patient" till now where the protest was concerned, but if the agitation attains a "criminal nature" -- where police personnel are attacked and injured and police property is destroyed -- that was "unacceptable."
"Especially in a secular state like Kerala, we will not allow any kind of communal conflict," the minister said and claimed that the mob attacked houses and establishments of those not belonging to their community. "We will go to any extent to ensure communal harmony in the state," the minister said while speaking to reporters in Kozhikode.

On being told that the Latin Catholic church, which is leading the protest against the port construction, has claimed that external forces were in play and were the reasons for the violence during the last two days, Devarkovil said the government has received several reports and the matter was being investigated.

He said he can discuss in detail about the reports only after the proceedings in the Kerala High Court on the issue gets over today.

Vicar General Eugene Pereira, who has been seen at the forefront of the protests, claimed "outside forces" were behind the port-related violence in the last two days and said there should be a judicial probe into the incidents. At the same time, he also said that the attack on the police station, injuries caused to the police personnel and the damage to property were not justifiable.

He said that it was initially women who went to the police station to enquire about the persons who had been detained and they claimed that some outside forces interfered and were behind some of the damage to police vehicles and throwing of stones from nearby houses.

"Thereafter, things escalated and unfortunately resulted in the violence. I am not justifying the violence or injuries caused to the police personnel," he said, speaking to the media in Thiruvananthapuram.

State Finance Minister K N Balagopal said that these unfortunate incidents of violence were happening when the project was at the finishing point.
He said it was an important project for the state and expressed hope that the matter can be resolved amicably and the port construction can be completed in a time-bound manner.

Devarkovil too said that the project, which cost around Rs 7,500 crore, was important for the overall development of the state and therefore, its work cannot be stopped -- which is one of the seven demands of the anti-port protestors.

He said five demands have been accepted and besides the stopping of the port construction, the only other demand that remained was providing kerosene at subsidised rates to fisherfolk. The Ports Minister said kerosene was provided by the Centre and therefore, it was not up to the state to provide it at subsidised rates.

He also blamed the protestors for not abiding by repeated orders of the high court not to obstruct construction work or the movement of materials for the project.

"So if there is an action, there will be a reaction," he said, but added that till date the government has not tried to suppress the protest by force in view of its public nature and presence of women and children at its forefront.
"However, we will have to implement court orders," he further said.
Devarkovil also said when the protestors were not abiding by court orders, it made no sense for them to seek a judicial enquiry into the incidents of violence.

Meanwhile, senior Congress leader and former KPCC president V M Sudheeran said the protestors were seeking a proper study of the impact and consequences of the project on the coastal regions, but it has been "twisted into an anti-port agitation."

"The state government should not be stubborn on the issue," he said and added that there should be an amicable and fair resolution to the problem.

Over 3,000 people have been booked in connection with violent clashes during an ongoing protest against the Adani port project in Kerala's Vizhinjam area on Sunday night. Police said cases have been registered against 3,000 'identifiable persons' for vandalising a police station and injuring police personnel. As many as 36 police personnel were reported to be injured in the violence that ensued.

Earlier on Sunday, the state police lodged an FIR against at least 15 Latin Catholic priests, including metropolitan Archbishop Thomas J Netto and Pereira, over the violence at Vizhinjam.

Additional Director General of Police M R Ajith Kumar told the media that around 36 police personnel injured in the Sunday evening attack by the mob which vandalised the police station were admitted to various hospitals in Thiruvananthapuram.

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