Tuticorin on the boil: Congress compares death of 12 protestors to Jallianwala Bagh; Opposition parties slam Tamil Nadu govt

Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin town was on the boil for the second successive day on Wednesday, with another man shot dead in police firing following fresh clashes between security personnel and locals demanding the closure of a copper factory over pollution concerns, a day after police action left 10 protestors 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Collector N Venkatesh has been replaced by the collector of the neighbouring Tirunelveli, Sandeep Nanduri, while Nilgiri district police chief Murali Rambha will take over from SP P Mahendran.

 Tuticorin on the boil: Congress compares death of 12 protestors to Jallianwala Bagh; Opposition parties slam Tamil Nadu govt

12 persons were killed in police firing in Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin. Courtesy: Twitter/@MKStalin

And while the protests remained apolitical, the state's many parties were quick to jump into the fray. Here are some of the reactions that came in following the violence:

Congress: Congress president Rahul Gandhi claimed Tamils are being killed as they refused to "bow" to the ideology of the RSS. "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 (Narendra) Modi. We are with you Tamil brothers and sisters," he tweeted on Wednesday, using #SterliteProtest as a hashtag.

Gandhi's tweet came a day after the Congress chief had said that the gunning down of people was a "brutal example of state-sponsored terrorism". "These citizens were murdered for protesting against injustice," he wrote.

Meanwhile, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad compared the firing at Tuticorin to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre by the British. "The state government knew that this being 100th day of agitation, it's going to be bigger. They should've made better arrangements to maintain law and order but nothing was done. They simply resorted to firing. It was a massacre, almost like the Jallianwala Bagh," he said.

BJP: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hit back at the Congress, raising questions over Gandhi's "common sense". BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said that such an attempt by the Congress was an excuse to hide Gandhi's own failures. "Rahul Gandhi is milking a situation which is sad. Gandhi is trying to derive some political mileage out of it. He names RSS as the one which is the perpetrator of the death of 12 people. Gandhi, are you aware of the fact that in a federal structure law and order is a state subject," Patra asked addressing a press conference.

"In every issue you drag RSS. Was it RSS behind Emergency or behind 1984 anti-Sikh riots? Was the RSS behind Bofors or Quattrocchi? Tomorrow you will say that RSS was behind making you the Congress chief," Patra said.

He also said that the Congress had been losing elections right from the day Gandhi was appointed the vice-president of the party. "This feat of defeat is continuing even after his appointment as the Congress president," he said, adding, "Knowing very well that Gandhi is not able to give able leadership to Congress in any situation, he feels that he can milk politics that suits his political opportunism. He feels that RSS and BJP should be drawn into the battlefield. In a way, he tries to hide behind the veil of RSS because he sees that this is the best excuse to hide his own failures."

Asking the Congress leader whether he wanted to send out a message based on lies, Patra said, "Such behaviour does not behove you. We expect some amount of maturity."

DMK: DMK leader MK Stalin cancelled his proposed trip to Bengaluru to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy on Wednesday, to visit Thoothukudi (Tuticorin) to assess the situation and meet those injured. He met the victims of the firing and again called for the resignation of Tamil Nadu chief minister E Palaniswami.

He termed the deaths of 12 civilians as "mass murder of innocents" in a tweet sent out on Wednesday. Tagging the Chief Minister's Office directly, Stalin asked, "Why did you or your representatives not meet the protestors during the last 100 days? Why was the protest not resolved by your government during this time? What steps have you taken to allay the environmental concerns of residents of Tuticorin?"

He later posed further questions to the chief minister. "Who ordered the police firing on the protestors? Why were automatic weapons used to disperse the crowd and under what law is this permitted? Why were rubber/plastic bullets or other means mot used to avoid fatal injuries? Why was no warning given before the firing?"

Rajinikanth: Actor-turned-politician Rajinikanth condemned the Tamil Nadu's government's "careless attitude" and "unlawful police firing".

"I condemn the carelessness of the government, failure of the state machinery and the police brutality in the Sterlite protests. My sincere condolences to the families of the deceased. This government's inaction and their indifference towards sentiments of people has resulted in the loss of lives due to gunfire. I'm deeply saddened, and this is a condemnable act. The Tamil Nadu government is solely responsible for the violence and deaths," he said.

Kamal Haasan: Fellow actor-turned-politician Haasan met the injured people and demanded to know who ordered the firing. "We must know who ordered this firing. It is not me but the victims who are demanding this. Merely announcing compensation isn't a solution. This industry must be shut and this is what the people demand," Kamal said.

"The peaceful protest against Sterlite by the people demanding justice was ignored by the government. Negligence by the government is the reason for all the unfortunate incidents. Citizens are not criminals. They are the ones who lose their lives; earlier due to Sterlite and now due to the government's orders," he said.

CPM: The CPM demanded "immediate legal proceedings" against those who ordered the firing on the protesters in Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu. "All those responsible for this merciless shooting down of protesters should be held accountable and immediate legal proceedings should be launched against them," CPM said in a statement.

It said that the inquiry announced to probe "these brutal killings" should be headed by a sitting judge of the Madras High Court. "The brutality of the police is revealed by the fact that many of those killed and injured have bullet injuries on their heads and faces. The protests arose because of the inadequate response of the state administration to the genuine apprehensions of the people concerning air, water and ground contamination," it said.

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With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: May 24, 2018 09:27:15 IST