A day after 12 people were killed in clashes with security forces in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami on Thursday accused rival political parties of “instigating” violence. Reacting to the protests which have been staged by locals demanding the closure of a copper factory of the Vedanta group, Palaniswami also said that power supply to the plant was discontinued following a direction from the state’s pollution control board. He also said that the AIADMK government was taking the legal route to ensure that the Sterlite Copper Smelter plant was shut down.
Terming the incidents of violence as “unfortunate,” the chief minister claimed some anti-social elements had infiltrated the anti-Sterlite plant protesters. He also insisted that past agitations for the closure of the plant were peaceful.”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.
He also said that the “deliberate” violence was meant “to bring disrepute to the government and put it under pressure”. Recalling the efforts taken by the AIADMK government for the closure of the plant, he said that his government has been making efforts in this regard since 2013 when late J Jayalalithaa was the chief minister.
“As far as Amma’s government is concerned, we respect people’s feelings,” he said, adding all legal steps were underway to shut the Sterlite plant, and cases were pending before the Supreme Court and High Court.
The Tamil Nadu CM said that last month, the Pollution Control Board did not renew the Consent to Operate (CTO) the Sterlite Copper’s plant. The copper smelting unit was not functional, he said, seeking to assuage people’s concerns over the factory polluting groundwater in the area.
He deplored that despite the government’s efforts for the closure of the factory, “people belonging to some outfits and opposition parties are instigating innocent people”.
Earlier in the day, the Tamil Nadu CM defended the police action, saying, “When someone hits you, you naturally tend to defend yourselves. So on such situations, no one acts in a pre-planned manner.”
Some anti-social elements intruded into the agitation on May 22 and attacked the police, torched the police vehicles. Under tense situation, police resorted to firing and the firing was not pre-plannned. #SterliteProtest
— Edappadi K Palaniswami (@CMOTamilNadu) May 24, 2018
State government continues to respect views of people on Sterlite issue. Opposition parties instigating innocent people to agitate. Thoothukudi administrators met agitators 14 times about govt stand. TN pollution control board didn’t renew license for Sterlite. #SterliteProtest
— Edappadi K Palaniswami (@CMOTamilNadu) May 24, 2018Advertisement
Meanwhile, DMK leader MK Stalin, who was holding a protest outside Tamil Nadu secretariat, has been detained by the police. Several other leaders were detained too. The DMK and other Opposition parties in the state have also called for a dawn-to-dusk bandh on May 25, condemning the police action against protestors.
Demanding 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, Stalin staged a sit-in with party MLAs at Fort St George complex.
Violent protests erupted in the city on Tuesday and Wednesday as locals took to streets demanding the closure of a copper factory of the Vedanta group over pollution concerns. Internet services in Tuticorin and adjoining districts of Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari have 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 have been demanding its permanent closure.
(With PTI inputs)