Tuticorin: Nine people were killed in police firing after protests for the closure of Vedanta group's Sterlite Copper plant over pollution concerns turned violent in Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin on Tuesday. Confirming the deaths, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami said that nine people had been killed in "police action" and announced a judicial inquiry into the violence.
Detailing the events leading to the "unfortunate" deaths, he said the protesters took out a procession towards the collectorate defying prohibitory orders in the area. They not only pelted policemen with stones but also set on fire their vehicles as well as those parked in the collectorate. They hurled stones at the collector's office, the CM said in a statement.
"The police had to take action under unavoidable circumstances to protect public life and property as the protesters resorted to repeated violence... Police had to control the violence. I was grieved to know nine persons were unfortunately killed in this incident," Palaniswami, who holds the Home portfolio, said and expressed his sympathies and condolences for the families of those killed. He also announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the families of each of those killed, Rs 3 lakh to those seriously injured and Rs 1 lakh for people who suffered minor injuries. The CM assured government jobs for one family member of each of those who lost their lives in accordance with their qualifications.
Hon'ble CM-Press Release-Thoothukudi dt sterlite industry-violence-death-Date 22.05.2018 pic.twitter.com/ItkoFoMIZn
— Edappadi K Palaniswami (@CMOTamilNadu) May 22, 2018
Police said section 144 of CrPc has been invoked in and around the Sterlite unit to provide security to it as per the orders of the Madras High Court. However, angered over not being allowed to take out a rally, the slogan-shouting protesters forcibly tried to push back the security personnel in riot gear. They then started hurling stones at police and also overturned a vehicle after which the security personnel lobbed teargas shells to disperse them, police added, PTI reported.
— ANI (@ANI) May 22, 2018
While state minister D Jayakumar in a televised address on Tuesday said police firing on protesters was 'unavoidable', main Opposition and DMK leader MK Stalin said in a Facebook post - "The inaction of the government has led to the people`s protests, and police resorting to firing to control it. Action should be taken to shut down the plant immediately to address this issue."
Meanwhile, a peaceful demonstration was held near the old bus stand in the town, also demanding the closure of the Sterlite unit and the proposed expansion of the plant. Several shops in this town, Srivaikundam and Oddapidaram remained shut in support of the protest. The district has been witnessing several protests by locals and others against the Sterlite Copper plant and its proposed expansion. Protesters have alleged that the plant was polluting groundwater in their area.
Sterlite Copper represents the copper unit of Vedanta Limited which operates a 400,000 tonnes per annum-plant in Tuticorin.
(With Agency inputs)