Chennai: After two days of intense agitation that left 11 dead, an eerie Thursday dawned in Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu where there have been widespread protests against a copper smelting plant of Sterlite Industries.
While protests against the plant - reportedly due to it causing massive pollution - have been on for close to three months, the tipping point was reached when, according to police reports, 5000 protestors gathered on Tuesday to march towards the construction site. It is alleged that police resorted to firing live rounds using assault rifles to calm the situation and despite absolute outrage, security forces once again fired live rounds on Wednesday killing one. Till Thursday morning, 67 people had been arrested for indulging in violence.
Tamil Nadu: Death toll rises to 13 in the firing by police during #SterliteProtests on May 22 & more than 70 people are undergoing treatment. No fresh protest has been reported overnight. Police has been deployed in large numbers in the sensitive coastal areas. #Thoothukudi pic.twitter.com/U2BKMrJAFP
— ANI (@ANI) May 24, 2018
While commercial establishments have remained shut in Thoothukudi - the epicentre of the unrest, internet services too have remained temporarily shut since 2100hrs of Wednesday. The local administration has said services would remain shut for five days.
Meanwhile, the state government has been lambasted for mishandling the situation and for live rounds being fired on protestors. While 11 have died in two days of protests, many more have been injured and are receiving treatment in local hospitals where leaders like Kamal Haasan and Vaiko have since visited. DMK's MK Stalin also visited the injured and the party announced a statewide bandh for Friday, on Thursday morning.
CM Edappadi K. Palaniswami may have announced monetary compensation for families of those killed but it is being widely regarded as a woefully inadequate gesture. The Home Ministry has asked him for a detailed report.
That protests against a corporation - Sterlite is owned by Vedanta - can invite the ire of security forces has shocked public at large. While Vedanta stocks have remained in the turbulent phase since the latest incident of unrest in Tamil Nadu, the company has asked the state government to ensure security for its employees in the disturbed areas. And for now, the construction of the plant has been halted due to a stay order from the Madurai bench of Madras High Court.