The protest outside the Vizhinjam port here by hundreds of fisherfolk, pressing their seven-point charter of demands regarding various livelihood issues, heated up further on Thursday as it entered the third day with the agitators pushing some of the barricades onto a temporary police structure and bringing it down. Visuals of the protest aired on TV channels showed the protestors pushing some of the barricades onto a nearby temporary shelter erected for police personnel deployed there, bringing its roof down.
As the police personnel struggled to put the barricades back in place, the protestors managed to breach the same and move a few meters towards the port entrance before being blocked by the police force there. Those leading the protest, who are priests of the Latin Archdiocese, spoke to senior police officers at the site asking to permit them to march peacefully towards the gate of the port and return to where the barricades were placed where they would sit peacefully.
The officers said that there are thousands of people there and it would not be possible to let them all through, to which the priests assured the protestors were under their control and nothing untoward would happen. Thereafter, the officers sought time to discuss the same with higher-ups.
Meanwhile, state Fisheries Minister V Abdurahiman told reporters in Delhi that protestors were invited for talks, but they have not responded to the same. He also said that the state government will not take any step which would harm the interests of the fisherfolk.
His claims of the protestors being invited for talks were termed as falsehood by the protest leaders, one of whom told mediapersons that if the government was willing to consider their demands, they were ready for talks. However, let the government first call us for talks. They have not yet done so, the priest said.
Led by the priests of the Latin Archdiocese, the coastal community members including women have been flocking to the entrance of the multi-purpose seaport, located at nearby Mulloor, in large groups since Tuesday, when the fourth phase of their protest commenced with the slogan ‘Vizhinjam chalo’. Hundreds of fisherfolk hailing from various coastal hamlets have continued to lay siege to the main entrance of the under-construction Vizhinjam port with the agitation entering its third day on Thursday.
On Tuesday, the state government, in an attempt to placate the protestors, had said that steps are being taken to allocate land for construction of flats to rehabilitate those fisherfolk who lost homes to the sea. The government had also expressed its willingness to hold talks with the fisherfolk to discuss their demands.
However, these conciliatory efforts have not proved sufficient to convince the fisherfolk to withdraw from the protests outside the port’s main entrance. The protesters have been alleging that the unscientific construction of groynes, the artificial sea walls known as “pulimutt’ in local parlance, as part of the upcoming Vizhinjam port was one of the reasons for the increasing coastal erosion in the district.
On Wednesday, to express solidarity with their community members, a large number of fishermen also came from hamlets like Poovar and Puthiya in bike rallies to the protest venue. Last week, hundreds of fisherfolk had taken out a massive protest rally in the state capital and laid siege to the Secretariat here with boats and fishing nets, alleging that the Left government was neglecting their demands.