India: Anti-gas pipeline protests face police brutality in Kerala

November 6, 2017
Kerala police attack anti-pipeline protesters.

Police in the southern Indian state of Kerala unleashed brutal force against people protesting against the proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline of Gas Authority of India Ltd (GAIL) at Mukkom, near Calicut, said on November 2. Dozens of protesters were injured.

The demonstrators blocked rural roads with burning tyres and threw stones at police vehicles. Tension prevailed in the area as the police resorted to a baton-charge and fired tear gas shells to disperse the crowd. Media representatives were injured in the police action.

Ten activists were taken into custody on charges of attacking the police and their vehicles. In the unexpected clash, a police officer also suffered minor injuries. To release the detainees, Anti-GAIL Action Committee members laid siege to the Mukkom police station.

Basheer Puthiyottil, vice chair of the committee, alleged that about 500 police from various stations unleashed the attacks in the name of clearing the location for land acquisition procedures.

Leaders of the anti-GAIL campaign described the police action as “inhuman and provocative”, cold-shouldering the concerns of about 600 families in Kozhikode district who would be affected by the process of laying 80 kilometres of pipeline in the area.

They said the project, which requires about 160 acres of land in Kozhikod district for completion, would dislocate villagers settled in the Thamarassery, Karassery and Mukkom regions.

The ambitious 437km GAIL pipeline project from Kochi to Mangaluru in Karnataka passes through densely populated areas. People are worried about safety.

The protesters are also apprehensive about the risk of accidents, such as the fire caused by the GAIL pipeline in Andhra Pradesh in 2014 that claimed 22 lives.

Former Chief Minister and Chair of the Kerala Administrative Reforms Commission, VS Achuthanadan said it was unbecoming of Kerala’s Communist Party-led Left Democratic Front government to suppress popular protests via police brutality.

[Abridged from]

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