Nine killed as anti-Sterlite protest turns violent in Thoothukudi

  • Nine killed as anti-Sterlite protest turns violent in Thoothukudi

Nine killed as anti-Sterlite protest turns violent in Thoothukudi

The months-long protest demanding closure of the copper smelter of Vedanta Ltd took a violent turn on Tuesday with agitators pelting stones and toppling police vehicles after they were prevented from marching towards the plant.

According to initial information, nine people have been killed when the police opened fire and one is critical.

Police say clashes broke out as a huge crowd of protesters stormed district government headquarters.

The injured people have been shifted to a nearby Government Hospital in the area. To mark the 100th day of the protest for the closure of the plant, the protesters chose to march towards the Collector's office. They allegedly pelted stones at police officials and damaged police vehicles. In an angry retaliation, the protesters set Thoothukudi Collector office premises and the quarters of Sterlite employees on fire.

The police, who tried to control the protesters, initially lobbed tear gas shells and resorted to baton charges.

This is the first incident of police firing on anti-Sterlite protesters, who have been agitating against the expansion plans of the Vedanta Group-run company for the last 100 days.

It produces around 400,000 tonnes per annum in its Tuticorin plant. Chief Minister K Palaniswami confirmed reports about the death of nine people in "police action".

The region has been seeing a few dissents by local people and others against the Sterlite Copper plant here and its proposed development.

"Entering the office and violence is not acceptable. firing [opening fire] became unavoidable", fisheries minister D Jayakumar told reporters in Chennai, formerly known as Madras. "People of Thoothukudi need not worry", Tamil Nadu Director General of Police TK Rajendran said, adding that the police are trying to find out if the protestors died in the firing or in stone pelting. As the protest went out of control, the police personnel from the neighbouring districts were brought in to bring the situation under control.

DMK working president MK Stalin demands an inquiry commission headed by a sitting High Court judge to probe the Thoothukudi killings. State Opposition leaders slammed the ruling government over its failure to control the mob and several deaths. Makkal Needhi Maiam founder Kamal Haasan termed it a non-violent protest.

Stating that the company has filed an appeal with the Appellate Authority on May 17, the release said the state government had put forth its effective arguments and opposed the functioning of the Sterlite plant, before the case was adjourned to June six for next hearing.

Owing to the Anti-Sterlite campaigners' call for a massive protest against the operations of copper smelter here, several hundreds of protesters rallied to the collectorate campus here on Tuesday. The locals alleged that the plant was polluting groundwater and causing serious health issues.