Kochi: "Emerging Kerala", the three-day event meant to showcase the state to potential investors, ran into a wall of protest on the very day of its inauguration here on Wednesday.
As the event was set to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, numerous organisations gathered in strength to express their disapproval of a move that many fear could "submerge" Kerala.
The state expects to host guests from 52 countries over the next three days. Nearly 2,500 ambassadors and high commissioners, diplomats and CEOs are expected to congregate in Kochi during the event.
Even before the event could be inaugurated, people gathered with placards against the programme on the main streets of Kochi.
The police too made arrangements for the protestors, telling them that they could stage their protest at two different points, both about two km from the venue of the meetings. Police also told protestors that if they crossed a particular line, they would face arrest.
Speaking to the media at the protest venue, Charles John, an activist, said that the protestors represented numerous groups.
"This `Emerging Kerala` programme will spoil the environment, the rivers, seas and the land. The state would just end up losing its natural wealth. This is just the start of our protests, we cannot brook the sale of our state," John said.
TB Mini, a woman activist, said that the Prime Minister would surely notice the protestors and address their concerns.
The protestors have drawn their ammunition from Chief Minister Oommen Chandy`s "transparency" move. In a bid to make the functioning of the government more transparent, the Chief Minister had decided that all proposals before the government would be put up on its website.
The list of projects on the website included a golf course, for which land would need to be acquired. Environmentalists and the opposition Left were up in arms against the proposal.
Youth organisations of the Left parties had joined the protest, and were told they had to confine themselves to a certain area.
CP John, a member of the State Planning Board and a top leader of one of the allies of the Congress-led United Democratic Front, however, claimed there was nothing worrisome in the protests.
"We are living in a country where democracy allows all to protest. This is quite natural. We are also clear that not a single project here would be detrimental to the interests of the state," John said.