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Kerala Adani port protests: CPM hopes wind changing after violence, priest’s remarks

Ruling party keeps up attack on Church over vandalism of a police station, tries to give agitation communal colour

Thiruvananthapuram: Police personnel deployed at Mulloore in Vizhinjam during the Hindu Aikyavedi march to support the Adani port development project, in Thiruvananthapuram, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022. (PTI Photo)

The attack on a police station last week by fisherfolk protesting against the construction of the Vizhinjam port in Kerala, and the comments made against a Muslim minister by a Catholic priest who is at the forefront of the agitation, have provided the ruling CPI(M) an opportunity to spin a communal angle to the protests.

Fishermen in the region have been protesting against the Adani Group port project for the past four months, alleging that its construction is causing massive sea erosion and may take away their livelihoods. Following demands of an impact study, among others, the project was suspended for more than three months. A Kerala High Court order resumed the construction last week, sparking off the standoff that led to the violence at the police station. The police have booked 3,000 people in connection with the attack.

On Monday, Fisheries Minister V Abdurahiman called the protests “treason”. In a speech responding to the remark, Father Theodacious D’Cruz, convener of the anti-seaport project committee of the Latin Catholic Archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram, said there was “a terrorist in the minister’s name”. While D’Cruz apologised for the comments later, calling them “a slip of the tongue”, Abdurahiman rejected the apology, saying “society at large would not accept such a comment”.

The ruling CPI(M) is hoping that the violence, coupled with the controversial remark by the priest, would dent popular support for the fishermen’s cause. The party has ensured that both the issues stay alive since.

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CPI(M) state secretary and Politburo member M V Govindan accused D’Cruz of having “a perverted mindset of communalism”. “If the priest finds a terrorist in the name of a minister because of his Muslim name, he (the priest) has an extremely communal mindset. What happened at Vizhinjam on Sunday was a riot,” he said.

Minister P A Mohammed Riyas said: “The priest is trying to create an ideological environment to promote the interests of the Sangh Parivar.”

Other ministers M B Rajesh and V Sivankutty also hit out at D’Cruz.

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While the BJP has been trying to woo over the Christian vote in Kerala, largely on the back of their fears regarding Muslim fundamentalism, on the seaport project, both the BJP and CPI(M) are on the same side. Leaders from the two parties recently shared a venue demanding completion of the project.

Weakening of the protest hence suits both the parties.

The Congress, meanwhile, is trying to stand for the seaport project while also supporting the demand of the fishermen that they be rehabilitated.

However, the balancing act is proving a tough task. After Congress state president K Sudhakaran flayed attempts to depict fishermen as extremists, Govindan said the party seemed to be on the side of communal elements as it did not condemn the remarks of the priest.

First published on: 03-12-2022 at 14:10 IST
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