Sterlite protest updates: 13 people killed, 102 others wounded, confirms new Thoothukudi district collector

Sterlite protest LIVE updates: Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi lashed out at the Narendra Modi government over the anti-Sterlite protests and said that the prime minister was silent on the violence but was throwing a fitness challenge.

The Madras High Court has rejected the state government's appeal against the preservation of bodies.

The Tamil Nadu government has appealed against the Madras High Court order to preserve bodies of those killed in the police firing in Thoothukudi. "The government is unable to give an answer to the relatives who have arrived there to collect the body," the government petitioner said.

Addressing the media, Chief Minister Palaniswami said, "The entire episode which happened was primarily because of certain political parties, NGOs and anti-social elements, who took protestors to a wrong path." In a series of tweets, DMK leader MK Stalin that his party will "continue its struggle to have justice".

The police tracked down protestors at their homes in the middle of the night using footage from CCTV cameras, alleged Mariyappan, the admin of the 'Thoothukudi People' which is a group on Facebook. Mariyappan alleged that police used the footage from CCTV cameras near the government hospital and one of the major signals there to trace the protestors involved in the agitations there. "They knew that these people were likely from the surrounding areas like Anna Nagar and were able to track them down using government data," he said. Some of those arrested last night are being remanded today, he said. Mariyappan, who is in his home in Thoothukudi, said no offices are open today, internet remains suspended and only banking domains are functional.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has filed a petition in the Delhi High Court to order an inquiry into the police killings in Thoothukudi. This plea will be heard on Friday by the court. Meanwhile, DMK's working president MK Stalin led a protest against the Palaniswami government outside the chief minister's office in Chennai. He was forcibly removed as he sat in dharna in front of the chief minister's office. He had be there along with about 20 of his MLAs demanding an audience with the CM. He has been sitting in protest in front of the Chennai Secretariat.

In an official order, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board ordered the closure of the copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi.

A 42-year-old man succumbed to injuries in Tuticorin Genera Hospital on Thursday taking the death toll to 13. Internet Services in Thoothukudi were suspended on Wednesday at 9 pm. According to latest reports, services will be suspended for the next five days. According to ANI, the government has decided not to allow internet services in the riot-hit area where clash between protesters and police claimed 12 lives. Till now, at least 67 people have been arrested in connection to the violence.

Tamil Nadu government has reportedly disconnected electricity supply to Sterlite plant in Thoothukudi on recommendation of the Commodity Control Board. Meanwhile, Firstpost accessed a copy of the petition filed by Fatima Babu, an environmental activist, in the Madras High Court. In her petition, Fatima lists out why the high court should not allow functioning of the copper smelter plants in Tuticorin.

"The said proposal was considered, and environmental clearance was granted to the 4th Respondent’s copper smelter plant-II on 01.01.2009. The requirement of public hearing prior to grant of such environemental clearance was exempted based on the representations of the 4th Respondent that the proposed plant would be located inside notified SIPCOT industrial area. The public hearing process is an essential part of the environmental clearance process. I state that a majority of the residents of Thoothukudi and those living in the vicinity of the 4th Respondent have a very poor image of the company and are angry with it for twisting and violating the law, polluting the environment, damaging the health of people, and getting government authorities to collude with its illegal schemes. This is evident from the massive protests ongoing in Thoothukudi even at the time of presentation of the present Writ Petition," Fatima says in her petition.

Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani took to Twitter to urge the united Opposition that attended HD Kumaraswamy's swearing in ceremony to visit violence-hit Thoothukudi. "I sincerely request that these same people take time off from photo op to come visit Thoothukudi and join hands to protest Vedanta and the horrific corporate, state-sponsored murder of civilians," he said in a tweet.

Late on Wednesday, Chief Minister K Palaniswami, and his deputy O Panneerselvam called on Governor Banwarilal Purohit and apprised him of the violent incidents against the Sterlite copper plant at Tuticorin. Top officials took part in the meeting held in Chennai on Wednesday night and it lasted about half an hour.

Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin town was on the boil again on Wednesday, with a man shot dead in police firing following fresh clashes between security personnel and locals demanding closure of a copper factory over pollution concerns, a day after police action left 10 protesters dead.

In the line of Opposition fire, the state government constituted a Commission of Inquiry headed by retired Madras High Court judge Aruna Jagadeesan to probe the violence, and shunted out the Collector and Superintendent of Police of Tuticorin.

Collector N Venkatesh has been replaced by the collector of neighbouring Tirunelveli Sandeep Nanduri, while Nilgiris district police chief Murali Rambha will take overfrom SP P Mahendran.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has, meanwhile, sought a report from the Tamil Nadu government on the circumstances leading to police firing on protesters demanding the closure of Vedanta group's Sterlite Copper plant, which they claim had polluted ground water in the area, official sources said in New Delhi.

Taking cognizance of the large-scale violence, the National Human Rights Commission issued notices to Tamil Nadu chief secretary and the director general of police, asking them to submit a detailed report in two weeks, while the Madras High Court stayed the proposed expansion of the plant.

Enraged over Tuesday's killings, protesters took to streets on Wednesday morning, attacking police with stones, setting two government vehicles on fire, and trying to storm into a hospital where injured were kept, prompting security personnel to baton-charge them and open fire, officials said.

Several people, including police personnel, were injured in clashes.

Seeking to control the damage done due to police action, the government announced constitution of the Jagadeesan commission of inquiry.

"The panel will cover the law and order incidents following the siege of the District Collectorate on 22 May by thousands of persons violating prohibitory orders," an official release said in Chennai.

Reinforcements have been rushed to Tuticorin from adjoining districts to assist the local police and civil administration in restoring calm in the strife-torn town.

A Madras High Court bench comprising Justices M Sundar and Anitha Sumanth, meanwhile, stayed the proposed expansion of the plant on a petition filed by environment activist Fathima Babu.

The bench also directed the central government to submit a report within four months after inviting public opinion on the expansion plan.

Sterlite had got consent for expansion, after the existing unit was shut two months ago by an order of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.

NHRC, citing media reports, observed, "It appears that the authorities probably failed to foresee the tragic violence which took place".

Noting that the agitation against the alleged polluting unit was on for more than three months, the rights body said effective precautionary measures and deployment of adequate number of police personnel could possibly have averted violence.

"It also appears from several media reports, including those on TV news channels, that the police resorted to firing on unarmed protesters without following the standard operating procedure, which tantamounts to serious violation of human rights and thus is a matter of concern," it said.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi alleged that Tamils were being killed as they had refused to "bow" to the RSS ideology.

"Tamils are being killed since they refuse to bow to the ideology of the RSS. The feelings of the Tamil people can never be trampled by the bullets of the RSS and Modi. We are with you Tamil brothers and sisters #SterliteProtest," he said in a tweet in Tamil.

DMK working president M K Stalin demanded the resignation of Chief Minister K Palaniswami and state police chief TK Rajendran.

"On behalf of the DMK, I strongly condemn the violence. Chief Minister Palaniswami and DGP T K Rajendran should take moral responsibility for the police action and resign," Stalin, who visited the families of the victims, told reporters.

"Will Tamil Nadu chief minister take action against DGP for failing to maintain law and order? Will chief secretary explain her role in this entire episode? Will there be justice for Sterlite protest?" he later said in a tweet.

"Why was there not adequate police presence to maintain law and order during Sterlite protest ? Is it accurate to say that there was a total failure of State intelligence which led to these unfortunate deaths?" he said in another tweet.

Actor and Makkal Neethi Maiam president Kamal Haasan also visited the injured in Tuticorin and extended his condolences to the bereaved families. Actor Rajinikanth also condemned the police action.

"The incident is due to the total negligence of the government. I strongly condemn the unlawful activities by the police," the actor said in a video message that was shared on his official twitter handle.

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Updated Date: May 24, 2018 21:29:03 IST

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