Tuticorin/Chennai: The months-long protests for the closure of Vedanta's Sterlite Copper unit in Tuticorin over pollution concerns turned violent Tuesday, with agitators fighting pitched battles with police, prompting it to open fire in which at least nine people have been killed.
Residents have been demanding the closure of the plant, citing that the pollution it generates is causing serious health issues. The agitation against Sterlite Copper, which represents the copper unit of Vedanta Limited, recently escalated after the company announced the expansion of its unit in the city.
On Tuesday, 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 5000 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, according to PTI.
With hundreds of residents and social activists protesting, there is a heavy deployment of police in the coastal city. Personnel have been rushed from neighbouring districts of Madurai and Virudhunagar to bring the situation under control. DMK working president and Leader of Opposition M K Stalin condemned the “police atrocities” that took place during the protest on Tuesday morning, reported news agency ANI.
"Since the government did not take any steps in this regard, the people launched today's massive rally....police attacked people indiscriminately and opened fire on them which is condemmnable," Stalin, also the Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly, told reporters in Chennai.
On the other hand, Congress President Rahul Gandhi has termed the police firing an example of "state sponsored terrorism."
"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", Rahul said in a tweet.
Meanwhile, Cheif Minister Palaniswami announced one-man commission under a retired high court judge into Tuticorin violence. 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.
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