Anti-Sterlite protest: 9 killed in Tuticorin; CM Palaniswami announces compensation, Opposition slams Tamil Nadu government

Tamil Nadu CM K Palaniswami on Tuesday announced a judicial inquiry into the violence in Tuticorin.

Anti-Sterlite protest: 9 killed in Tuticorin; CM Palaniswami announces compensation, Opposition slams Tamil Nadu government
Pic courtesy: PTI

Tuticorin/Chennai: Nine people were killed in police firing after protest for the closure of Vedanta group's Sterlite Copper plant over pollution concerns turned violent in Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin (Thootukudi). Chief Minister EK Palaniswami confirmed reports about the deaths in "police action".

He also announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the families of each of the deceased and ordered a judicial inquiry into the violence. Palaniswami said in a statement that the protesters took out a procession towards the collectorate in defiance of the prohibitory orders clamped in the specific area in Tuticorin.

"The police had to take action under unavoidable circumstances to protect public life and property as the protestors resorted to repeated violence... Police had to control the violence," the CM, who holds the Home portfolio, said.

Here's what happened:

The protests were going on in Tuticorin for over three months now, but violence erupted on Tuesday with agitators allegedly fighting pitched battles with police, prompting it to open fire. Hurling stones and setting government vehicles and public property on fire, the agitators went on the rampage in the town, about 600 km from Tamil Nadu capital Chennai. Police was quoted as saying by PTI that nearly 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.

Initial pushing and shoving soon led to violent clashes, after agitated locals began hurling stones at police and overturned a vehicle. Security personnel used batons and burst teargas shells to break up the protest. Many were injured in stone-pelting by the agitators, who also set some vehicles on fire, as per reports. Windscreens of some government cars were smashed and bank premises were attacked by the rampaging mobs. As the violence spiralled, police opened fire, killing nine people.

Who said what:

DMK Working President and Leader of Opposition, MK Stalin, slammed the "inhumane" firing on protestors. In a statement, he demanded an inquiry by a sitting high court judge, besides a compensation of Rs 1 crore for the families of each of those killed.

The government committed a "Himalayan blunder" by handling the protest with "guns and teargas shells," he said, adding at least a minister accompanied by the district collector should have spoken to the agitators. He called for the removal of state police chief TK Rajendiran.

MDMK founder Vaiko likened the incident to the British era Jallianwala Bagh massacre, while the CPI(M)'s state unit demanded the chief minister's resignation.

Actors-turned politicians Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan slammed the Tamil Nadu government for police firing on protesters. "Tamil Nadu government's inaction is responsible for the violence in Tuticorin. It should take responsibility for the loss of life and violence. This government's lackadaisical ways have led to the deaths of innocents," said Rajinikanth.

Haasan too slammed the Palaniswami government, saying, "We stand for the people and offers condolence to the grieving families. This is unpardonable. People of Tamil Nadu will not forget this violation of their dignity and life. It could have been stopped before escalating it to such levels."

On the other hand, Congress president Rahul Gandhi termed the deaths a "brutal example of state-sponsored terrorism". He said people were murdered in Tuticorin for protesting against injustice. "The gunning down by the police of 9 people in the Sterlite protest in Tamil Nadu is a brutal example of state-sponsored terrorism. These citizens were murdered for protesting against injustice. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of these martyrs and the injured," Rahul said on Twitter.

Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit condoled the deaths, saying, "My condolences to each one of the bereaved families. At this critical hour, I appeal to all sections of society to be calm and help in maintaining the peace in the state."

(With PTI inputs)

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