11 killed as police open fire at anti-Sterlite protesters in TN's Thoothukudi
22 May 2018
At least 11 people were killed when police opened fire at protests demanding the closure of Vedanta’s Sterling Copper unit took a violent turn today. The police firing also left over 30 people injured in Tamil Nadu's Thoothukudi (Tuticorin).
The protests have been going on for the past several months against the expansion activities of the Sterlite plant that allegedly polluted ground water in their area.
Chief Minister Palaniswami confirmed that nine people have been killed in police action at Tuticorin while sources say the toll has gone up to 11.
The state government has ordered a judicial inquiry into the violence and also announced compensation of Rs10 lakh each to the dependents of the dead and jobs for the next of kin. Injured persons would also be given a compensation of Rs3 lakh each.
Police said protesters started pelting stones and toppling police vehicles after they were prevented from marching towards the Sterlite plant. They also tried to gherao the collector’s office as well as the plant.
The police resorted to lathicharge and tear gas to disperse the crowd and as the protest escalated and went out of control, police opened fire on the protesters.
About 20,000 people had gathered near the district collectorate and the copper plant with the intention of picketing them, demanding permanent closure of the plant, a government statement said.
With the protests turning violent, police called for additional reinforcements. Over 2,000 police personnel have been rushed to Tuticorin from nearby districts to bring the situation under control, say reports.
Police said section 144 of CrPc has been invoked in and around the Sterlite unit to provide security to the unit as per the orders of the Madras High Court.
Tamil Nadu government said the plant was in operation in Meelavitan in Tuticorin for the past 20 years. Following a gas leak in March 2013 in the plant, the then chief minister, the late J Jayalalithaa had ordered its closure, following which the company moved the National Green Tribunal against the state government.
The company later moved an Appellate Authority against this and the next hearing is slated for 6 June it said, adding, the TNPCB counsel had strongly argued against operations in the plant.
The government said it was committed in respecting people's aspirations and was working towards it.