The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is learnt to be gathering details of the circumstances leading to the ‘unprovoked violence’ let loose on Sunday last by protesters at the construction site of the ₹7,500-crore Vizhinjam international seaport and trans-shipment containment terminal being developed by the Adani Vizhinjam Port Pvt Ltd (AVPPL).
The NIA will also seek to ascertain if ‘some external forces’ have been involved in sustaining the four-month-old protests by local fishermen who allege the massive port project has led to serious coastal erosion. They have been egged on by the Vizhinjam Action Council sponsored by priests and bishops of the Latin Archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram. V Sivankutty, Kerala Minister of Labour, too had alleged on Tuesday ‘some foreign hand’ is at work behind the ‘organised Vizhinjam protests.’
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NIA team camping in city
A group of NIA officials have been camping in Thiruvananthapuram dealing with the case of the ban on the Popular Front of India (PFI) and the shutdown of its offices in the State. Sources said this group has also now been assigned the task of probing into the Vizhinjam violence case. The NIA has taken serious exception to the incidents in which a crowd of 3,000 violent protesters laid siege to the Vizhinjam police station and threatened to set it on fire unless five members of their group were released.
Meanwhile, the Kerala police have not made any arrests in the case relating to riot and arson even after three days. On Wednesday, they refused permission to the Hindu Munnani to take out a march demanding the resumption of work on the project and protection of lives and property. Additional forces have been deployed to maintain peace in the sensitive coastal belt.
Use of force as last resort
The police said they observed maximum restraint on Sunday when faced with a violent crowd of 3,000 that far outnumbered their strength. Women members were used as a shield even as their male counterparts at the rear threatened to set the police station on fire unless the detainees were released. The situation was such it could get out of hand any moment, a source said.
The police had to use force as a last resort to disperse the mob, and in the ensuing scuffle, at least 50 personnel received injuries. A few protesters too had sustained injuries. They have been admitted to a hospital, but the police have not arrested them as a measure of abundant caution. More than five police vehicles had been vandalised in the arson and rioting.
A case has been resisted against 3,000 ‘identifiable persons’ and an FIR filed, though without making any arrests so far. Outwardly, the police say they have not been able to round up any despite searches conducted in the affected area over the past couple of days. But sources said the police are sulking since they do not want to precipitate a situation through ’unilateral action’ just yet.