Nine die as Tuticorin Sterlite Copper protest turns violent

Alicia Farmer
May 23, 2018

They not only pelted policemen with stones but also set on fire their vehicles as well as those parked in the collectorate.

"The gunning down by the police of 9 people in the Sterlite protest in Tamil Nadu is a brutal example of state sponsored terrorism".

The protesters alleged that the police had used force unnecessarily and without provocation on the peaceful gathering.

Violence erupted at demonstration held to mark the 100 day of protests demanding the closure of Sterlite Copper Industries. "It's a total failure of police intelligence", Stalin said.

Protesters in Tuticorin had planned to gherao the plant - property of the Vedanta group - as well as the collector's office. Many were injured in stone-pelting by the agitators, who also set some vehicles on fire, as per reports. It also claims that the well-being of communities around it is the primary commitment of the company. Also, he added that the state government should accept the responsibility for the violence and loss of life.

As per the Madras High Court orders, the police have imposed section 144 of CrPc near the Sterlite unit to calm down the situation.

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Support has poured in for the current phase of protests from political quarters including a publicised visit by actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan, MDMK chief Vaiko, VCK chief Thol. Chief Minister K Palaniswami said he was concerned over the protests and subsequent deaths. He said, "Tamil Nadu Government's inaction is responsible for the violence in Tuticorin".

Police said almost 5000 protesters gathered near a local church and insisted on taking out a rally to the district collectorate after they were denied permission to march to the copper smelter plant.

Locals have said the plant is polluting air and groundwater in the region.

Though authorities have not yet confirmed the number of deaths in Tamil Nadu's port city of Tuticorin, local Minister D. Jayakumar told the media that the state government was considering compensation for those "shot dead" and the injured.

It said in March this year, the company had applied for removal of consent to operate (CTO) for its existing smelter plant. The application has been rejected for want of more clarifications after the state pollution control board found that the factory has not fulfilled some of the major factors including non-submission of a detailed ground water analysis, action not taken to dispose waste and not building a compound wall to arrest water mixing in the nearby river.

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