THOOTHUKUDI: After autopsy reports of the people killed in anti-Sterlite protests earlier this year revealed that they were shot from behind, the family of one of the deceased said that their stand has been vindicated. "We had been saying that they were shot in their heads by the police. But nobody listened. Now, it's revealed in the autopsy report," the cousin of a victim killed in the protests in Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu said.
The report said that 12 of the 13 protesters were killed when police opened fire on a demonstration against Vedanta's copper smelter in Tamil Nadu in May. According to the report they were hit by bullets in the head or chest, and half of those were shot from behind.
Two others died after bullets pierced the sides of their heads, according to the reports produced by forensic medicine experts from several government hospitals. In the case of 17-year-old J Snowlin, the youngest to be killed, a bullet entered the back of his head and exited through her mouth, the autopsy found.
"The deceased would appear to have died of cardio-pulmonary arrest due to firearm bullet injury to the back of the neck," forensic medicine experts who examined Snowlin's body wrote.
On May 22, at least 13 people were killed and over 60 persons were injured after police opened fire at people protesting against the Sterlite Copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi.
Following the violence, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami had asked for "police action" and announced a judicial inquiry into the issue.
Detailing the events leading to the "unfortunate" deaths, he had 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 had said.
As per rules, police force allows the use of live ammunition to quell civil unrest, but officers should not shoot to kill. Police Standing Orders for Tamil Nadu have said that when using firearms, "aim should be kept low, preferably well below the waist level, and directed against the most threatening part of the mob".
The incident is considered one of the deadliest environmental protest in the country in a decade. A working group of United Nations' human rights experts in May had condemned the "apparent excessive and disproportionate use of lethal force by police".