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Sterlite protest updates: Thoothukudi SP, collector transferred; Centre seeks report from Tamil Nadu govt

Two police vehicles were set on fire by protesters as Tamil Nadu's Thoothukudi continued to burn over protests against the Vedanta group's Sterlite Copper plant. Meanwhile, actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan was booked for violating Section 144 when he reached the hospital with 20 people.

FP Staff May 23, 2018 21:31:39 IST
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Sterlite protest updates: Thoothukudi SP, collector transferred; Centre seeks report from Tamil Nadu govt

Highlights

18:21 (ist)

Madras High Court orders preservation of bodies of those killed in police firing: ANI

A report in The Hindu furhter said that the Madras High Court has directed Vedanta to stop the construction of Sterlite copper plant's Unit II in Thoothukudi.

14:34 (ist)

At least, one should die: Policeman caught saying on tape

In a video released by The News Minute, two policemen are seen getting on top of a van and taking aim at protesters to shoot them down. While even the visuals enraged activists and the public, the audio heard in the background is even more chilling. As a policeman is on top of the van, a voice in the background can be heard saying, “At least one should die.”

12:45 (ist)

Protesters were misled by groups with vested interests, claims Sterlite Copper CEO P Ramnath

In an exclusive interview with Sterlite Copper CEO P Ramnath, Business Today in this report quoted the CEO as saying, "I totally regret what happened today. It was totally uncalled for and is really unfortunate. We had, in fact, taken all the precautionary steps by getting the court order for section 144. The police and the collector had also taken precautionary steps by calling for a peace meeting with the protestors but only one faction agreed to abide by what the collector and the superintendent of police had to say and they were allowed to conduct protests but there was one more faction which did not agree to this and they went ahead and took the law in their own hands. They started attacking the police, the collectorate, damaged and burnt a lot of vehicles. Our property was also attacked. In the township lot of employee vehicles were burnt. So, there was complete lawlessness, including perhaps infiltration of number of nefarious elements, who probably had their own interests and it all took a violent turn, which we completely regret. Although we expected it to be peaceful given Section 144 and considering the efforts made by the police and the collectorate."

11:29 (ist)

Was the police firing pre-planned?

Tuesday's incident has triggered speculations that the police firing during the protests against Sterlite Industries was planned in advanced. “It is pre-planned, cold blooded murder,” The Wire quoted Thamizhaga Vaazhvurimai Katchi leader T Velmurugan as saying. The report quoted sources and said that the police had intended to kill the organisers of the protest.

08:21 (ist)

CM Palaniswami announces judicial inquiry into Tuticorin violence
 

Palaniswami said he has ordered constitution of a one-man commission under a retired high court judge to go into the incident. 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. The chief minister instructed the Tuticorin district administration to ensure those wounded got good medical treatment.

08:08 (ist)

Videos show cops taking aim and shooting at protesters

As people marched ahead, breaching the barricades and entered the Collectorate, the police retaliated and fired at the crowds. 

The News Minute reports: 'Though the Tamil Nadu government maintains that the police action was unavoidable, visuals being telecast by Tamil TV channels Puthiya Thalamurai and News18 Tamil Nadu show policemen in plain clothes taking aim from top of a police van and firing at protesters. In a sequence of events caught on video, a policeman in a yellow T shirt is standing on top of the van and firing a rifle. Later, another policeman in a black T shirt climbs to the top of the van, lies down and takes aim to shoot. The protesters don’t seem to be in the near vicinity of the police. Other reports say that police took aim from vantage points on roofs of buildings too.'

LIVE NEWS and UPDATES

May 23, 2018 - 22:38 (IST)

Plant has been shut for two months, why has the issue just cropped up? asks Sterlite Copper CEO

Reacting to the day's events, Sterlite Copper CEO P Ramnath told CNBC-TV18 that the company's plant has been operating in compliance with environmental laws. "It's a myth that the company is letting out effluents in the ocean," Ramnath said.

"The plant has been shut down for the past two months. Why has the issue just cropped up?" Ramnath asked, and added that nefarious elements have infiltrated the villages.

Click here to read full report.

May 23, 2018 - 21:57 (IST)

Thoothukudi police told a dying man to "stop acting"

According to The News Minute, a video shows Kaliappan — the person killed in fresh firing in Thoothukudi on Wednesday — lying on the ground, unable to get up.

When he moves his head a little in the video, one of the policemen surrounding him is heard saying, "Stop acting."

May 23, 2018 - 21:51 (IST)

Internet services suspended in Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Kanniyakumari districts for five days

May 23, 2018 - 21:31 (IST)

Centre asks for report from Tamil Nadu govt

The Union Home Ministry has 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. — PTI

May 23, 2018 - 21:18 (IST)

Thoothukudi collector transferred

Sandeep Nanduri, who was Tirunelveli collector, has taken charge as Thoothukudi collector and has replaced N Venkatesh.

Input by 101Reporters

May 23, 2018 - 21:05 (IST)

Thoothukudi SP transferred

P Mahendran, the Thoothukudi superintendent of police, has been transferred, according to reports.

May 23, 2018 - 19:16 (IST)

Full order of the Madras High Court directing Vedanta to stop the construction of Sterlite copper plant's Unit II

May 23, 2018 - 19:14 (IST)

Persons behind the firing should be punished: Bishop of Tuticorin

In a letter, the bishop of Tuticorin has issued a statement on the violence so far and has said that the police opened fire without any government order.

"Over 1000 people have been protesting for over 100 days against the Sertlite plant. People are protesting in a peaceful manner; and yesterday, (were protesting) without troubling the police or other government officers. But the real question is who is responsible for the violence? People fought for their rights. Police opened fire without any government order and killed several people. Many people lost their loved ones and are afraid. The person behind the firing should be punished and they should take severe action against them. We give our condolences to the families and relatives (of those who were killed)," said the statement.

May 23, 2018 - 18:25 (IST)

Internet services restricted in Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi and Kanniyakumari districts: Reports

May 23, 2018 - 18:21 (IST)

Madras High Court orders preservation of bodies of those killed in police firing: ANI

A report in The Hindu furhter said that the Madras High Court has directed Vedanta to stop the construction of Sterlite copper plant's Unit II in Thoothukudi.

Anti-Sterlite protest LATEST updates: Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said the state government and the police must be held responsible for the "massacre of common people".

One of the policemen who fired shots at the protesters is a member of the Special FP commando team of Thoothukudi.

One person was killed in fresh firing. Protesters have also begun pelting stones as fresh violence erupted.

Two police vehicles were set on fire by protesters as Tamil Nadu's Thoothukudi continued to burn over protests against the Vedanta group's Sterlite Copper plant. Meanwhile, actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan was booked for violating Section 144 when he reached the hospital with 20 people.

The Tamil Nadu government has constituted a one member inquiry committee of retired Judge Aruna Jagadeesan to probe the issue after 11 people were killed in police firing on Tuesday. Thirty others were left injured as a mob of 20,000 people went on a rampage demanding the copper unit be shut down because it has been polluting the area. Earlier, the Union Home Ministry on Asked the Tamil Nadu government to provide details of the incident.

The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court has halted the construction for the new copper smelter plant of Sterlite Industries in Thoothukudi after police firing killed at least 11 people and injured more than 60. According to reports, the home ministry has sought a report from Tamil Nadu govt over Thoothukudi incident.

Politicians, actors took to Twitter to condemn Tuesday's violence in Thoothukudi, where at least nine were killed in police firing after protests for the closure of Vedanta group's Sterlite Copper plant over pollution concerns turned violent. The Opposition criticised the police action and the government's stoic silence on the issue.

Meanwhile, the Madras High Court's Madurai bench will deliver interim order on the ongoing construction of a new copper smelter by Sterlite industries in Thoothukudi, ANI reports.

Chief Minister K Palaniswamy confirmed reports about the death of nine people in "police action", while reports claimed many, including policemen, were injured in clashes. Governor Banwarilal Purohit condoled the deaths. Palaniswamy announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the families of each of the deceased, and ordered judicial inquiry into the violence.

The protests were going on in Tuticorin for over three months now, but violence erupted on Tuesday with agitators fighting pitched battles with police, prompting it to open fire. Palaniswami said in a statement in Chennai that the protesters took out a procession towards the collectorate in defiance of the prohibitory orders clamped in the specific area in Tuticorin.

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. Police said nearly 5,000 protesters gathered near a local 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.

Many were injured in stone-pelting by the agitators, who also set some vehicles on fire. Windscreens of some government cars were smashed and bank premises were attacked by the rampaging mobs.

As the violence spiralled, police opened fire, killing nine people. "The police had to take action under unavoidable circumstances to protect public life and property as the protestors resorted to repeated violence... police had to control the violence," Palaniswami, who holds the Home portfolio, said.

Reinforcements have been rushed from neighbouring districts to Tuticorin to assist the local administration in restoring normalcy. Some senior officials have also been despatched from Chennai to the strife-torn town to assess the situation and take measures to restore calm, sources said.

Meanwhile, an official release said about 20,000 people took out a procession towards the district collectorate and the copper plant, demanding its permanent closure. The government, underlining its "pro-people commitment", said further legal action would be taken, "respecting" their feelings.

"The Tamil Nadu government requests the people to accept this (assurance) and maintain peace," it said. The statement said the plant was in operation in Meelavitan in Tuticorin for the past 20 years.

Following a gas leak in March 2013, the then chief minister the late J Jayalalithaa, ordered its closure, following which the company moved the National Green Tribunal. With the tribunal overturning the government order, the state moved the Supreme Court against it, and the petition was now pending there, it added.

It said the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) had earlier this year rejected Sterlite's application seeking renewal of consent to operate the plant over non-fulfilment of green norms, including those related to disposal of copper waste and effluents.

The company later moved the Appellate Authority and the next hearing is slated for 6 June, it said. DMK Working President and Leader of Opposition, MK Stalin, slammed the "inhumane" firing on protestors.

In a statement, he demanded an inquiry by a sitting high court judge, besides a compensation of Rs 1 crore for the families of each of those killed. The government committed a "Himalayan blunder" by handling the protest with "guns and teargas shells," he said, adding at least a minister accompanied by the district collector should have spoken to the agitators.

He called for the removal of state police chief TK Rajendiran.

Stalin, who was to attend the swearing-in ceremony of JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy as Karnataka chief minister tomorrow, said he has cancelled his Bengaluru visit, and would head for Tuticorin to take stock of the situation. MDMK founder Vaiko likened the incident to the British era Jallianwala Bagh massacre, while the CPI(M)'s state unit demanded the chief minister's resignation.

Opposition parties including PMK, DMDK, Congress, and the MNM slammed the violence and police action, while actor Rajinikanth, who is slated to launch his political party, held the government responsible for the deaths.

Stalin and MNM founder Kamal Haasan demanded permanent closure of the plant.

With inputs from PTI

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