Anti-Sterlite protest in TN turns violent, 20 injured

Katie Ramirez
May 22, 2018

At least 11 people died and several others were injured after a protest against Sterlite Copper, a unit of Vedanta Limited, turned violent and police resorted to firing on protesters in Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin on Tuesday.

"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 condemmnable", Stalin, also the Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly, told reporters in Chennai. 'Nine people have been confirmed dead, ' said police official Kapil Kumar Saratkar.

Following the collectorate siege call was given by the protestors from 21 villages affected by the Sterlite plant, Collector N Venkatesh issued prohibitory orders on Monday and over 2,500 police personnel were deployed for security.

The residents of Tuticorin have been protesting for the closure of the Sterlite Copper plant for over a month now. Agitated protestors then started to pelt stones and toppled police vehicles. The protesters threw stones at the collector's office, Mr Palaniswami said in a statement.

Almost 3000 police personnel have been deployed under four Additional Superintendents of Police and 13 Dy SPs to bring the situation under control, official sources said.

While over 20 people suffered minor injuries during stone-pelting, some vehicles were set on fire, leading to tension in the area, they added.

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.

Sterlite Copper, which has operated the 400,000-tonne-per-annum-plant in Thoothukudi for the past 20 years denies the charge of pollution.

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State minister D Jayakumar in a televised address on Tuesday said police have fired on protesters and that it was "unavoidable".

Sterlite Copper in Tamil Nadu.

Over 4,000 police personnel have been moved to Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu from nearby districts to bring the situation under control.

The assembly of more than five persons has been banned in and around the Sterlite unit to provide security to it, in line with the orders of the Madras High Court. Meanwhile, reports said that a 16-year-old girl was injured in the police firing.

Opposition parties, some of whom have been supporting the protesters, condemned the police action and demanded the resignation of Chief Minister E Palanisamy of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). Actor and Makkal Neethi Maiam chief Kamal Haasan had expressed solidarity with the protest.

The minister said the government had not given the licence for expansion of the plant.

Protesters say the plant is polluting ground water in the area and threatens the fishing industry.

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