Kashmir Times. Dated: 11/6/2022 11:36:02 PM

The other day, the citizens of Kerala witnessed an extraordinary coming -together of CPM and BJP leaders in Thiruvananthapuram — in support of the Adani sea port, against the fisher community of the Thiruvananthapuram coast.
The fisher community of Kerala is one of the most wronged social groups in the state. They have seen their resources snatched away one by one since the twentieth century. The first step in this process of disenfranchisement happened way back in the 1950s, with the fisher people’s knowledge of the sea, accumulated over centuries of experience of fishing, delegitimated by the state fisheries’ supposedly scientific expertise. Then came the grab of marine resources, as fisheries were rapidly commercialized until a crisis point was reached in the 1980s when ecological destruction from overfishing threatened their way of life.
An extraordinarily resilient people, the fishers of Kerala fought back bravely, mobilizing for powerful agitations in the 1980s, rebutting social stigma and building connections with international oppositional civil society. When mainland Malayalis were drowning to death in the great flood of 2018, it was the brave fishermen who launched a hundred boats to undertake crucial rescue operations when the government had nearly failed — the Chief Minister of Kerala, at that time, had called them ‘Kerala’s Army’, even. Indeed, without them, thousands and thousands of lives would have been lost in the terrible flooding compounded by the completely ecologically-insensitive building practices on the mainland.
Now, however, they face the full force of the state and the post-socialist oligarchy in power in Kerala, in their struggle against the ecologically disastrous, politically pernicious Adani Seaport at Vizhinjam, which is an outrageous attempt at state-mediated dispossession of coastal people.. Kerala’s oppositional civil society, however flawed and fractured, has rallied to support the coastal people in their life agitation. Right from the beginning, Kerala’s political society — which is hardly that anymore, fitting more closely the trappings of a new oligarchy — has engaged in malicious slander against the protestors, even evoking majoritarian malice. For example, by blaming the Catholic Church for anti-national activities because they have supported the struggle strongly, the nefarious brains that work for the post-socialist Malayali oligarchy club together a development- minority with a religious minority, and condemn both in the same breath. Indeed, this is what underlines the newfound amity between the local CPM and the BJP.
But it is also alarming to see how earlier allies of the CPM are so readily sacrificed at the altar of predatory capital. The latest victim is none other than Aleyamm a Vijayan, one of Kerala ‘s seniormost feminists and long-standing associate of the CPM-led local governance endeavour, through the NGO she leads, Sakhi. Just a few weeks back, the CPM leader Thomas Isaac had showered her with praise in a social media post, remembering her contribution to local governance. Indeed, to critics, Sakhi was indeed the kind of neoliberalised feminism that suited the Malayali left perfectly.
It is however this ally who is being subjected to atrocious defamation. Aleyamma Vijayan has been reduced to the ‘wife of an Anti-Adani Seaport activist ‘ — her partner, A J Vijayan, is a leading figure in the fight against predatory capital on the Kerala coast!! It is simply unbelievable that a feminist ally of the CPM in key projects of social -legitimacy-building, a feminist of many decades of activism, can be stripped of her feminist public identity and reduced to mere wifehood! It is equally appalling that the foreign funding Boogey is being raised by the CPM’s organ Deshabhimani, against Sakhi after decades of close collaboration. There was a time that many of us remember very clearly when Sakhi was the go-to place for women’s empowerment for the CPM’s narrative-building exercises. Even a delegation from the Chinese Communist Party, friends remember, was taken to this NGO to be introduced to Kerala’s state feminist achievements. Indeed, one can imagine that the post-socialist oligarchy does not need feminism anymore, irrespective of its critical or docile variants.
Below is the solidarity statement against this attempt to slander and silence those who stand against the dangerous, anti-people Adani Seaport building, which is driven by nothing but pure greed.
Solidarity Statement against malicious slandering of activists who are fighting against Adani International Seaport at Vizhinjam, Kerala, India
The coastal fishing community is on a struggle front against the disastrous sea port which is being built at Vizhinjam by Adani ports. The port has resulted in coastal erosion leading to destruction of houses in the fishing villages. The dredging in the port will result in loss of local fishing habitats leading to destruction of livelihood of thousands of fishing families and their displacement from the coasts.
As the coastal community’s sit-in protest against the distress caused by the Vizhinjam Adani port is progressing with solidarity and support at the state level, corporate-backed media such as News 18, Janam TV, Desabhimani, Kerala Kaumudi are now resorting to blatant lies and misinformation against the protest. As a part of this, attempts have been made to slander Ms. Aleyama Vijayan and the womens organisation Sakhi, who has been working for women’s empowerment for past three decades, along with AJ Vijayan, who has been working as a trade unionist and researcher in the fisheries sector since 1980.
The attempt to portray the struggle as a foreign conspiracy through funding is malicious and insult to the fishing community who are fighting against the port and its sponsors. We request that all people who believe in democracy protest against this false propaganda. Furthermore, in view of the attempts by vested groups to create communal issues and problems of law and order on the coast, we urge the government, masses and civil society groups to positively intervene to keep the peace The fisherfolks in Vizhinjam, under the leadership of Thiruvananthapuram Latin Archdiocese, have been protesting for the last 105 days, raising seven demands, including that the construction of the port in Vizhinjam should be stopped and the damages caused by the port should be investigated by a team including experts suggested by the fisherfolks.
The rest of the six demands from the formation are:
(1) Find a sustainable solution to coastal erosion in Thiruvananthapuram coast due to the unscientific constructions in the sea, including that caused by the Vizhinjam port construction.
(2)Provide temporary rental accommodation to people relocated to the warehouses due to the coastal erosion.
(3)Plan and implement reasonable policies to rehabilitate the people who have lost their land and houses.
(4) Intervene to revoke the kerosene price hike; provide subsidised kerosene following the neighbouring state Tamil Nadu model.
(5)Provide minimum wages to the fisherfolks to compensate for the loss on the days of fishing weather warnings.
(6) Find sustainable solutions to the problems instead of temporary ones.
The claim that all the demands have been more or less accepted by the government has been debunked by the Convener of the protest committee, Thiruvananthapuram Latin Archdiocese, Fr. Eugene Perera, in a press conference yesterday (31 October 2022). It is undemocratic that, instead of fulfilling their obligation to settle the strike, the ruling government is resorting to covert attempts to tarnish coastal communities and overturn their struggle.
It is accused that Sakhi, a women’s rights organisation based out of Thiruvananthapuram, which has no direct affiliations with the protest committee, is receiving foreign contributions for the protests. They have already issued a defamation suit against the media for spreading misinformation and rumours. The details on the Sakhi website show that all their activities are transparent. We support this legal suit and wish this organisation to operate smoothly in the future.
We strongly condemn the media attempts to malign and vilify AJ Vijayan, who has been researching and writing on the eco-social impacts, the unscientific nature of the project and the contract irregularities. He has been doing so since the period of the environmental impact study during the UDF regime, which initiated the Adani port project with special interest. We believe it is essential to have independent research and scientific studies on the impact of the port on coastal communities, and any such studies should be encouraged.
We urge the government to settle the Vizhinjam issue urgently by arriving at a reasonable and sustainable solution and defend the rights of fishing and coastal communities.
Released by the Solidarity Committee for the struggle against the Adani Seaport building at Vizhinjam.
--Courtesy: Kafila



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