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Madras HC Stays Construction Of New Sterlite Smelter After Death Of 11 Protesters In Police Firing

DIVYIA ASTHANA | 0
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| May 23 , 2018 , 11:47 IST

At least 11 people have been killed in alleged police firing in Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin (Thoothukudi) on Tuesday when protests against Vedanta's Sterlite copper unit became violent. In wake of the violence, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court on Wednesday stayed the construction of a new copper smelter by Sterlite industries in Tuticorin. 

Around 30 others are reportedly injured as a mob of more than 20,000 people went on a rampage in Tuticorin, demanding that the copper unit be shut down, alleging that the Sterlite unit was polluting the groundwater.

Although Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami pegged the death toll at 9, sources report that as many as 11 people have died. CM Palaniswami has ordered a judicial inquiry into the violence that took place at Tuticorin and announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh and jobs for the next of kin of the deceased, and Rs 3 lakh for those injured.

"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, who holds the Home portfolio, said.

ALSO READ: Kamal Haasan Joins Anti-Sterlite Protests in Tamil Nadu

Local residents and social activists have been protesting against the expansion activities of the Sterlite plant and demanding that it be closed down, alleging that the plant was polluting the ground water in their area and causing serious health complications.

As per the orders of the Madras High Court, police said that Section 144 of CrPc had been invoked around the Sterlite unit to provide security to it. Sterlite Cooper claims that it has all the requisite permits and has not violated any norms.

Since the protesters were prevented from marching towards the plant, they were seen pelting stones and toppling police vehicles. They also tried to 'gherao' the Collector's office and the Sterlite plant, forcing police officials to resort to lathi-charge and tear gas to disperse the crowd. As the violence went out of control, police opened fire on the protesters resulting to the deaths.

Actors-turned-politicians in Tamil Nadu, Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth both condemned the violence and blamed the government.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi slammed the violence as an example of "state sponsored terrorism".

He tweeted: "The gunning down by the police of 9 people in the #SterliteProtest in Tamil Nadu, is a brutal example of state-sponsored terrorism. These citizens were murdered for protesting against injustice. My thoughts & prayers are with the families of these martyrs and the injured."