The death toll in police firing at anti-Sterlite plant protestors in Tuticorin rose to 13 on Thursday, as the region continues to witness unrest. The police registered cases against opposition leader M K Stalin and actor-politician Kamal Haasan for defying prohibitory orders, and arrested over 100 people who were protesting against the police firing.
The DMK working president, who held a sit-in protest at the state secretariat, Fort St George, was physically lifted and removed by security personnel. Several other leaders were detained too. The DMK and other Opposition parties in the state called for a dawn-to-dusk bandh on May 25, condemning the police action against protestors. Stalin demanded the resignation of Palaniswami and sacking of state police chief T K Rajendran over large-scale arson and violence in Tuticorin, about 600 km from state capital Chennai.
The agitators continued to protest at Rajaji Salai after being removed from the secretariat premises and raised slogans against the government.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami broke his silence and blamed the opposition for “instigating” the violence. He defended the police, saying, “When someone hits you, you naturally tend to defend yourselves. so on such situations, no one acts in a pre-planned manner.” He also accused political parties of “misguiding protesters.”
“This time around it (protest) turned violent. It was due to instigation by some political parties and owing to infiltration by anti-social elements,” Palaniswamy said.
Nine were also critically injured in the clashes that broke out between police and locals who are protesting against the industrial plant on Tuesday. Among those killed were two women and 11 men.
The police arrested over 100 people for rioting, setting ablaze and damaging public property, and assaulting police personnel. Cases under IPC sections and the Tamil Nadu Public Property (Prevention of Damage and Loss) Act were registered against them. Of these, as many as 65 were granted bail by a Tuticorin court later in the day.
Cases were filed against leaders, including Stalin, MDMK chief Vaiko, and Kamal Haasan, for defying prohibitory orders yesterday while visiting a hospital in Tuticorin where those injured in clashes are being treated.
Meanwhile, Vedanta Chairman Anil Agarwal released a video message on Twitter, saying the loss of 12 lives in violent protests in Tuticorin were “unfortunate”. He further said that he would like to continue operations at the company’s plant with support from the community.
In a video message on Twitter, Agarwal claimed that the company strictly abide by the rules when it came to following anti-pollution norms. “I am very sad to hear the incident… This was absolutely unfortunate. My full sympathy is with the families (of the deceased),” Agarwal said.
A Commission of Inquiry headed by retired Madras High Court judge Aruna Jagadeesan was constituted to probe circumstances leading to firing. The court on Thursday declined to modify its order directing the Tamil Nadu government to preserve until further orders the bodies of those killed during the anti-Sterlite protest at Tuticorin on May 22.
A day after the transfer of previous Collector and SP, Sandeep Nanduri and Murali Rambha assumed the offices respectively.
The government officials held a meeting of the ‘Consultative Committee for Peace Restoration in Thoothukudi’, which was headed by District Magistrate, SP, IG (South Zone) and state govt monitoring officers Davidhar and. Gagandeep Singh Bedi. This meeting aimed to restore peace in the region as the normal life continued to be affected for the third day today as modes of public transport including buses, and autos did not ply. Most shops were shut.
Police in anti-riot gear patrolled the streets as prohibitory orders banning assembly of more than four people continued to be in force. Internet services in Tuticorin and adjoining districts of Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari have also been suspended till May 27 to prevent the spread of rumours through social media.
The residents have been protesting against the plant over pollution concerns since 100 days. Citing pollution from the copper plant, including issues relating to disposal of copper waste and effluents from the operational unit, the residents are demanding its permanent closure.
with PTI inputs
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