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Nine dead in police firing in Toothukudi as Sterlite protests turn violent

22 May 2018

The participants of the procession, which marched towards the Collectorate, toppled a police vehicle, torched many vehicles parked on the two-wheeler parking space and damaged as many as six four-wheelers belonging to the Revenue Department.

As violent anti-Sterlite protests in Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu led to the death of a man in police firing today, the state government assured that it will take action "respecting" people's feelings on the plant and appealed to all for calm. Chief Minister K Palaniswami confirmed reports about the death of nine people in "police action".

According to the minister, police resorted to firing after over 20,000 people, who were staging a protest demanding the closure of a copper smelting plant in Tuticorin, suddenly went on a rampage, vandalizing government property and offices.

"We are trying to bring the situation under control".

They then started hurling stones at police and also overturned a vehicle after which the security personnel lobbed teargas shells to disperse them, the police said. People of Oddapidaram and Srivaikundam also kept their shops closed for the day. Panic gripped the industrial area when around 2,000 policemen resorted to lathi-charge and firing to disburse the protesters, sources said.

Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPc) has been invoked in and around the Sterlite unit to provide security to it as per the orders of the Madras High Court, said police.

MK Stalin of the opposition DMK blamed the state government for the violence, saying that people had been protesting peacefully for so long but the administration did not attempt to address the concerns of the people.

Protesters set vehicles on fire and threw stones at police, prompting the police to open fire. Residents have been agitating against the copper plants of the company, alleging that the pollution emitted by these plants was causing severe health issues, including cancer, among the people residing in the area.

The latest protest turned violent as a crowd waving black flags stormed the district government headquarters and an apartment block for Vedanta employees, a company official said, declining to be named for fear of being targeted. Other political leaders have also slammed police and the state government. "If possible it will be good to close down the (existing) unit", said Haasan.

Early this year, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board rejected Sterlite's application seeking renewal of consent to operate the plant; it cited its failure to comply with environment norms such as disposal of copper waste and effluents.

The company says that it has received necessary regulatory clearances from the government for the expansion of the copper plant.

Jayakumar said that the AIADMK government under the late J Jayalalithaa had moved the Supreme Court against a green tribunal order allowing the plant to function, and the petition was pending there.

Nine dead in police firing in Toothukudi as Sterlite protests turn violent