NEW DELHI: 9 people were killed in Tuticorin on Tuesday during violent protests demanding closure of a Sterlite plant over pollution concerns.
The months-long protests for the closure of Vedanta‘s Sterlite Copper unit in Tamil Nadu‘s Tuticorin took a violent turn earlier in the day, with agitators fighting pitched battles with police, prompting it to open fire on the mob.
Hurling stones and setting government vehicles and public property on fire, the agitators went on the rampage in the town, about 600 km from Tamil Nadu capital Chennai.
Expressing concern over the violence and subsequent police action which claimed nine lives today, chief minister E Palaniswami has ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident.
“The police had to take action under unavoidable circumstances to protect public life and property as the protesters resorted to repeated violence… police had to control the violence,” Palaniswami told reporters.
The chief minister also announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the families of each of those killed, Rs 3 lakh to those seriously injured, and Rs 1 lakh for people who suffered minor injuries.
He also assured government jobs for one family member of each of those who lost their lives in accordance with their qualifications.
Residents of Tuticorin town have been demanding closure of the Sterlite plant for the past 100 days . The protesting public gathered for a black flag protest near the Church of the Lady of Snow on Tuesday, while another group started to march from Madathur village , in defiance of a ban order under Section 144 of the CrPC.
Police said nearly 5,000 protesters gathered near the church and insisted on taking a out a rally to the district collectorate after they were denied permission to march to the copper smelter plant.
Initial pushing and shoving soon led to violent clashes, after agitated locals began hurling stones at police and overturned a vehicle. Security personnel used batons and burst teargas shells to break up the protest.
9 people were killed and over 20 were injured as the violence spiraled. More than 2,000 police personnel from the southern districts of Madurai, Ramanathapuram, Theni, Dindigul have been deployed to Tuticorin to restore order.
The government, underlining its pro-people commitment in the Sterlite issue, assured the public that further legal action would be taken, “respecting” their feelings.
“The Tamil Nadu government requests the people to accept this (assurance) and maintain peace,” said an official statement.
The district has been witnessing several protests by locals and others against the Sterlite Copper plant and its proposed expansion.
Protesters have alleged that the plant was polluting ground water in their area.
Sterlite Copper represents the copper unit of Vedanta Limited which operates a 400,000 tonnes per annum-plant in Tuticorin.