A week after violent protests broke out at the site of the mega port and transshipment container project at Vizhinjam, there are signs of a thaw with the Latin Archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram and the State government climbing down from their respective strident positions. 

The ₹7,500-crore project being developed by Adani Vizhinjam Ports Pvt Ltd has been stalled for more than three months, after agitating fishermen trespassed into the guarded construction site, with clergy of the Latin Archdiocese providing it moral support. The unprecedented violence of a week ago resulted in injuries to protesters and damage to property. 

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Rethink on stoppage demand

The clergy seems to have given up its demand that work on the project, which is more than 80 per cent complete, be permanently stopped. Mediators have also been working to create a meeting ground for the Vizhinjam Action Committee spearheading the protests and the State government, with representatives meeting Chief Secretary V.P. Joy, among others.  

The State government said it has agreed to six of the demands raised by protesters. But the seventh demand to call a halt to construction and order a review was ‘as unthinkable as it was impractical.’ Sunday’s development in which the protesters seemed to compromise willingly on this demand, offers a ray of hope for a settlement.

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Tharoor for early resolution

In Kochi, senior Congress leader and Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor urged the protesters not to insist on halting the project. He agreed their agitation was justified to some extent, and hoped that it will be resolved soon. It was, however, wrong to call the protesting fishermen ‘anti-national’, he said after meeting the Cardinal of the Syro-Malabar Church in Kochi

Tharoor expected the state government to accept the reasonable demands of the fishermen community. Unfortunately, this has not happened. “We are now able to see some progress and hope everything will resolve soon. I feel that the protesters should not insist on halting the project.” He also recalled how the fishermen had stood by the state during the 2018 floods.

Meeting with Chief Minister

The Cardinal urged the protesters and the government to come together and resolve the issue at the earliest. Both Tharoor and the Cardinal denied their meeting was centred on one topic, but the parleys covered the entire gamut of issues currently engaging the public attention. Tharoor said he has been exchanging ideas with the clergy in Thiruvananthapuram on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, Baselios Cleemis, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church in Thiruvananthapuram and a Cardinal himself, held discussions with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan over the Vizhinjam issue. Also on Monday, the High Court of Kerala rejected a public interest litigation demanding that the National Investigation Agency be directed to conduct a probe into the violence. This was after counsel for the State government referred to an ongoing probe in the matter.