May 23, 2018
Chennai : Tuticorin continued to smoulder for the second day after police resorted to firing on Sterlite protesters again on Wednesday, killing one more person adding to the anger of the protesters and the opposition political parties.
The authorities have also suspended internet in three districts of Tutucorin, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari as a precautionary measure to stop the spread of rumours and graphic pictures and videos of the violence and clashes between the protesters and police.
Police said that immediately suspending the internet was the only way to stop the social media from adding fuel to the fire.
On Tuesday police firing killed 12 people, most of them protesters from nearby villages who were demanding the closure of Sterlite Copper smelting plant in the region that they said was destroying the agricultural lands and also leading to severe health issues in the region. The company claimed that it had nothing to do with the police action that killed the protesters.
On Wednesday, the police fired against at crowds of protesters in Anna Nagar in Tuticorin, where the police claimed that they had to fire to quell a mob that was indulging in arson and violence. One person died in the police firing that the protesters said was unprovoked. The police maintained that the they protesters were pelting stones at the police and heavily outnumbered and that it had to fire, a police officer told media persons in Tuticorin.
Police also fired tear gas shells at the crowd assembled outside the Government Hospital in Tuticorin where the bodies of those who died in Tuesday’s firing were kept.
The police firing, for the second consecutive day, was condemned by the political leaders on a day when the chief minister E Palaniswami and deputy chief minister O Pannerselvam held series of meetings with top government officials and police chief on how to contain the situation. The TN government also set up a one-man probe committee headed by Aruna Jagadeesan to go into the incident.
Meanwhile, the Madras High Court stayed construction of Vedanta Ltd’s Copper Smelter Plant 2 at Tuticorin, some 650 km from here. The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court gave this direction hearing a PIL against the expansion of the company’s plant and the environmental clearance to the phase 2 of the project. The court ruled that the application for environmental clearance must be taken up only after mandatory public hearing and ordered that a decision on this must be taken by fore September 23.
The Vedanta Ltd has decided to double its copper smelting capacity to 800,000 tpa. The plant is popularly known as Sterlite Copper smelter plant.
Condemning the police action and government indifference, DMK working president MK Stalin said that the DMK and friendly parties will hold a state-wide protest on Friday. The other parties that will join the protest include DK, MDMK, Congress, MMK, CPI,CPM and VCK.
It is shocking that even though protests on the issue have been going on for over three months, the chief minister has not shown any inclination towards holding talks with the protesters, Stalin said and added the government failed to take precautionary steps even when it knew of agitation spreading and gaining momentum. The agitators had planned to commemorate the 100 days of completion of the protest.
Condemnation of the police action is coming in from several quarters from across India.
A statement released by the National Alliance of People’s Movements, signed by founder Medha Patkar and many others, laid on responsibility of the shooting on not just the police and the district administration, but also the government of Tamil Nadu, Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.
“For, yesterday was a bloody culmination of over two decades of blatant disregard for the lives and well-being of the people and protecting corporate interest,” it said. “Given the scale and seriousness of the crime involved, a time bound, court-monitored judicial inquiry by a retired Supreme Court judge to investigate the entire incident and fix liability must be initiated at the earliest. FIR under Section 302 IPC must be registered against the senior officials as well as political leaders, without whose facilitation and orders, the planning and executed these shootings and killings would not have happened,” the statement read.
In Tamil Nadu, actor turned politician Kamal Haasan was first off the blocks and visited Tuticorin on Wednesday and called on the injured persons admitted to the government hospital in the city. “We must know who ordered the firing. It is not me but the victims who are demanding this. Merely announcing compensation isn’t a solution. This industry must be shut and this is what people demand,” Kamal Haasan said.
The other superhero entering politics in Tamil Nadu posted video on twitter in which he condemned the police firing on protesters at Tuticorin. “I strongly condemn the government’s inaction, failure of intelligence and excessive police force. It is inhuman. My condolences to those who lost their lives.”
The DMDK founder, Vijayakanth, urged the prime minister to ensure that Sterlite plant be shut down permanently.