At least nine people were killed and 20 others injured after the month-long protest demanding the closure of Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper unit in Tamil Nadu’s Tuticorin took a violent turn on Tuesday.
"9 people killed during the protest held in Tuticorin demanding ban on Sterlite Industries, in wake of the pollution created by them," the news agency ANI reported.
Angered over not being allowed to take out a rally, the agitators resorted to stone pelting and overturned police vehicles. To disperse the protesters, the police fired teargas shells and gunshots. Nine persons were reported killed in the police firing.
The situation remained tense in the area, prompting authorities to impose Section 144 of CrPc around the Sterlite unit to provide security to the plant in accordance with the Madras High Court order.
M K Stalin, Kamal Haasan condemn police action
Expressing solidarity with the protesters, DMK working president and Leader of Opposition MK Stalin condemned the police action in which one person was killed and several others received injuries.
“Since the government did not take any steps in this regard, the people launched today’s massive rally....police attacked people indiscriminately and opened fire on them which is condemnable,” Stalin said.
The actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan also threw his weight behind the protesters and demanded the closure of the unit.
“The expansion (of Sterlite Copper) should not at all be allowed. If possible it will be good to close down the (existing) unit,” PTI Quoted Kamal Haasan as saying.
Meanwhile his party, the Makkal Needhi Maiam also released a statement saying that the negligence of the government was the reason behind the clashes.
“The peaceful protest by the people of Tuticorin against Sterlite, demanding justice was ignored by the Governments. Negligence of the Governments is the reason for all the unfortunate events,” the Makkal Needhi Maiam said in a statement.
CM Edappadi K Palaniswami appeals for peace
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami appealed people to maintain peace amid the unconfirmed reports of death toll being increased to five.
However, the police confirmed only one death and denied opening fire at protestors. It claimed that the person was killed in stone pelting and not in the firing.
The residents of Tuticorin were demanding the closure of the Sterlite Copper unit over the concerns of pollution. The locals alleged that the plant was polluting groundwater and causing serious health issues.
Sterlite Copper is a unit of Vedanta Limited which operates a 400,000-tonne per annum capacity plant in Tuticorin. The protests escalated after the company announced the expansion of the unit.