May 22, 2018
Heavy deployment of police personnel, rushed from Madurai and Virudhunagar, tried to bring the protests under control and had even carried out cane charge and fired tear gas shells.
Five people died on Tuesday after the ongoing anti-Sterlite protests in Thoothukudi turned violent after hundreds of villagers from nearby areas thronged the area violating the prohibitory orders.
Police fired teargas shells and carried out cane charge to bring the protesters under control, but passions were high and opposition political parties squarely blamed the State government for the death of a protester. The collector’s office has confirmed two deaths at the time of writing this report.
Protesters had torched several vehicles and also pelted stones on the police personnel, forcing the police to retaliate as also to bring the situation under control. Scores were left injured in the cane charge carried out by people.
The protesters alleged that the police had used force unnecessarily and without provocation on the peaceful gathering. The villagers and residents in Thoothukudi are demanding then closure of Sterlite copper smelting plant that generated pollution and led to severe health problems among the residents of the locality.
The agitation against Sterlite Copper, which represents the copper unit of Vedanta Limited, became intense after the company declared its intention to expand the unit. At present, the company operates a 400,000-tonne per annum plant. But the expansion plans have the residents worried and they have hit the streets citing health and environmental hazards.
Social activists have also joined the protests against the company. Heavy police deployment could be seen in Thoothukudi and surrounding areas of the coastal city. Police units have been rushed from Madurai and Virudhunagar to bring the situation under control.
Condemning the state government for the agitation and also police action that killed on protester, DMK working president MK Stalin said that the police was committing atrocities. The other political leader from opposition parties have also slammed the police and the state government.
Actors Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth, who recently announced their entry into politics, have also expressed solidarity with the protesters.
The TN government must take action over the concerns expressed by the protesters, they said.
“The expansion (of Sterlite Copper) should not at all be allowed. If possible, it will be good to close down the (existing) unit,” Makkal Neethi Mayyam chief Kamal Haasan said. He said there was no point in putting up a plant near residential and agricultural zone.
The other superstar, Rajinikanth, had a long time ago tweeted on the Sterlite protests and said “One can’t understand why the government, which gave the nod for the plant, is not taking any action and is just watching.”