More than 80 people were wounded in India as villagers protesting to halt construction of the $900 million Vizhinjam port project by India’s Adani Group clashed with police in Kerala state, the latest escalation in a months-long strike.
The protests, by a mostly Christian fishing community against the project led by billionaire Gautam Adani’s $23 billion ports business, have forced the latter to stop work on the port, seen as a potential and lucrative rival to those in Dubai, Singapore and Sri Lanka.
Located on the southern tip of India, the port seeks to plug into the lucrative East-West trade routes, adding to the global reach of the business led by Adani, Asia’s wealthiest man and the world’s third-richest.
Construction work has been halted for more than three months after villagers blamed the port’s development for coastal erosion and depriving them of their livelihoods. They have blocked the entrance to the site by erecting a 1,200-square-foot shelter.
Over the weekend, police arrested some protesters who blocked construction vehicles from entering the port, despite a court order for work to resume.
The arrests prompted hundreds of protesters, led by Catholic priests, to march on the police station late on Sunday night, leading to clashes with personnel and leaving police vehicles damaged, according to a police document and footage on local television.
One of the protest leaders, Joseph Johnson, said at least 46 protesters were hurt while authorities said 36 officers were wounded in the clashes.
Adani conglomerate is shouldering a third of the project’s cost with the rest borne by the state and federal governments. It has a 40-year agreement to build and operate the port.
The Group has yet to comment on the protests and the blocking of its project site.
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