9 dead in anti-Sterlite protest in Tamil Nadu

The Sterlite protest in Thoothukudi took a violent turn after local cops opened fire against protestors leading to the death of five protestors

After the police failed attempt to disperse the crowd, the protestors who were demanding the shutting down of the Sterlite Copper Smelter Plant engaged in stone pelting and torched police vehicles and two-wheelers.

According to initial information, nine people have been killed when the police opened fire and one is critical. More than 65 reported injured, including 12 who are seriously injured.

The Tamil Nadu government also issued a statement in which stated that Sterlite plant was functioning in the state for over 20 years and in 2013 the then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had ordered the closure of factory after people complained of irritation in their eyes after emissions from the project.

The protest has been going on for months now and turned violent on Tuesday when protestors were not allowed to march up to the plant.

The police, who tried to control the protesters, initially lobbed tear gas shells and resorted to baton charges.

The Chief Minister also announced a compensation of Rs. 10 lakh each to the families of those killed, Rs 3 lakh to those seriously injured, and Rs 1 lakh for those who suffered minor injuries.

Police said almost 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.

Sterlite Copper is a unit of Vedanta Limited which operates a 400,000-tonne per annum capacity plant in Tuticorin.

Thousands marched towards the Thoothukudi district collectorate despite the imposition of section 144
Thousands marched towards the Thoothukudi district collectorate despite the imposition of section 144

The TN government must take action over the concerns expressed by the protesters, they said. "The Tamil Nadu govt is responsible for the violence and the loss of lives". It said around 20,000 people took out a rally against the company and became violent by attacking police and burning police vehicles while storming the Collector's office.

The district administration imposed Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code on Monday, and more than 2,000 police personnel were moved in from neighbouring districts. "It's a total failure of police intelligence", Stalin said.

On April 4, the Madras High Court had directed the police to provide security for the plant in the wake of the agitation.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi said the incident was a "brutal example of state sponsored terrorism". People of Oddapidaram and Srivaikundam also kept their shops closed for the day.

Opposition DMK slammed the ruling AIADMK government, blaming it for the clashes.

The minister said the government had not given the licence for expansion of the plant. Haasan's political party Makkal Needhi Maiam issued a statement urging protestors to maintain calm in the city.

Owing to the Anti-Sterlite campaigners' call for a massive protest against the operations of copper smelter here, several hundreds of protesters rallied to the collectorate campus here on Tuesday.

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