Over 80 injured as Indian police clash with Adani port protesters


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KOCHI — More than 80 people have been injured in southern India as villagers halting construction of a $900 million port clashed with police, the latest escalation in a months-old protest waged by a predominantly Christian fishing community against Asia’s richest man.

The protests are a major headache for Gautam Adani’s $23bn ports and logistics company, which has been forced to halt work on the Vizhinjam seaport which is set to win contracts with rivals in Dubai , Singapore and Sri Lanka.

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However, construction was halted for more than three months after villagers blocked the entrance to the site, blaming the port for causing coastal erosion and depriving them of their livelihoods.

Over the weekend, police arrested several protesters after they blocked Adani’s construction vehicles from entering the port, despite a court order ordering work to resume.

The arrests prompted hundreds of protesters, led by Roman Catholic priests, to march on the police station, confront staff and damage vehicles, according to police documents and footage shown on local television.

A senior local police official, Mr Ajith Kumar, told Reuters that 36 officers were injured in the clashes. Joseph Johnson, one of the protest leaders, said at least 46 protesters were also injured.

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Located at the southern tip of India, the port is looking to tap into lucrative East-West trade routes, adding to the global reach of the business run by billionaire Adani, who is believed by Forbes to be the third-richest man. of the world.

Asked about the latest protest, the Adani Group did not immediately comment. The company said the port complies with all laws and cited studies that show it is not linked to coastal erosion. The state government also said that any erosion was due to natural causes.

The protests continued despite repeated orders from Kerala’s highest state court to allow construction to start. Police have largely refused to take action, fearing it could trigger social and religious tensions.

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In the latest clashes, police documents said protesters « came with deadly weapons and stormed into the station and held police hostage, threatening that if those in custody were not released, they would set fire to the station ». Eugine H. Pereira, vicar general of the archdiocese and leader of the protest, said police pelted protesters with rocks.

The port protests are reminiscent of the backlash Adani has faced in Australia over its Carmichael coal mine. There, activists concerned about carbon emissions and damage to the Great Barrier Reef forced Adani to cut production targets and delayed the mine’s first shipment of coal by six years.

(Writing by Aditya Kalra; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)



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