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August 2018
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Anti-Sterlite protest: 11 killed in police firing in Thoothukudi
 
(Thoothukudi, May 22, 2018):The 100-day-old peaceful protests against expansion of Sterlite Copper plant turned bloody on Tuesday when police opened fire at agitators killing 11 of them and injuring dozens of people in the southern port city of Thoothukudi.

The dead included a 17-year-old girl student who was hoping to get enrolled in a college after passing the Plus-two exams with flying colours and another woman. As dusk fell, the “Pearl City” of South India was on the edge as at least four to five of the injured were said to be critical and the remaining receiving treatment for heavy wounds sustained during the firing that was preceded by stone-pelting by the protesters.

Pointing to television visuals, human rights activists alleged that the protesters were targeted by the men in khaki since almost all of them were shot near or in the chest area. Television footage also showed policemen standing atop vans taking aim at protesters and firing at them, contradicting the government’s claim that firing was done as the last resort.

Though Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami put the number of dead at 9 in a statement released around 6 pm, Governor Banwarilal Purohit’s condolence message said the number of dead were 11. Police sources on the ground in Thoothukudi told DH that the toll rose to 11 and feared that it could further go up.

The violence erupted in the morning when police stopped nearly 20,000 protesters who marched towards the Collectorate defying prohibitory orders.

As the police prevented protesters from moving beyond a point, they turned violent and began pelting stones inside the Collectorate premises and burnt government vehicles, besides setting on fire a complex that houses several employees of Sterlite Copper.

The police used force to disperse the protesters resulting in the death of 9 people, which was termed as “cold-blooded murder” and “state-sponsored terrorism” by Opposition parties and celebrities who took to social media to castigate the AIADMK government.

The protests were planned as the agitation by the villagers who stay near the plant entered its 100th day, even as almost all shops and commercial establishments in the port city were shut in response to a day-long bandh call given by the villagers.

Villagers of A Kumarareddiapuram have been holding a fast in Thoothukudi since mid-February demanding that Sterlite’s expansion plans to be abandoned and the entire plant be shut owing to environmental concerns.

However, the plant has been temporarily shut after state government’s refused to grant Consent to Operate (CoT).

Palaniswami justified the police action and announced that families of victims would be given solatium of Rs 10 lakh each besides a government job for the next kin of the deceased.

“Some of the protesters torched vehicles on the road and forced their way into the Collectorate and set on fire government vehicles besides pelting stones at the premises. .. ,” he said in a statement.


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