Anti-Sterlite protest: Tamil Nadu HC orders govt to preserve bodies of dead

One more person was killed in fresh police firing on Wednesday as the killing of 11 people protesting against the Sterlite Copper Smelting plant a day earlier sparked calls for the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister's resignation.

The Tamil Nadu government on Wednesday transferred Tuticorin district collector and Superintendent of Police as fresh violence rocked the port city.

The authorities suspended internet in the districts of Thoothukudi or Tuticorin, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari as a precaution to stop the spread of rumours and graphic pictures and videos of the violence and clashes between the protesters and police.

But the town continued to smoulder for a second day as thousands demonstrated outside the main hospital opposing the autopsy on those killed on Tuesday when police opened fire alleging that mobs had gone on the rampage and were about to vandalize the Collectorate.

Police personnel tackles as protestors demanding the closure of Vedanta's Sterlite Copper unit, gather in a street in Tuticorin | Photo: PTI
On Wednesday, the police fired at crowds in Anna Nagar, killing a young man. The demonstrators insisted that the police action was unprovoked. The police accused the crowds of stoning the police.

Police also fired tear gas at a crowd massed outside the Government Hospital in the town where the bodies of those killed on Tuesday were kept.

As Chief Minister K. Palaniswami held a series of meetings with top government officials and the police chief on how to contain the situation, the government set up a probe committee headed by former Madras High Court judge Aruna Jagadeesan to probe the mayhem.

Meanwhile, the Madras High Court stayed the construction of Vedanta Ltd's Copper Smelter Plant 2 at Tuticorin, some 650 km from Chennai. The Madurai bench of the High Court gave this direction on a PIL against the expansion of the company's plant.

The court ruled that the application for environmental clearance must be taken up only after mandatory public hearing and ordered that a decision on this must be taken by September 23.

It also directed the state government to preserve the bodies of those killed in police firing on May 22, until further orders and also directed to file counter affidavit by May 30 on a public interest litigation from three advocates.

The bench said advocates shall be permitted to provide legal assistance to the affected persons.

The Vedanta Ltd, which has decided to double its copper smelting capacity to 800,000 tpa, on Wednesday denied any role in the police action. The plant is popularly known as Sterlite Copper smelter plant.

Condemning the police action, DMK leader M.K. Stalin said all opposition parties in Tamil Nadu will hold protests on Friday. The parties include the DMK, MDMK, Congress, MMK, CPI, CPI-M and VCK.

The protest against Vedanta's Sterlite Copper unit -- going on for 100 days since the company announced its plans to invest Rs 25 billion in doubling the capacity of its existing facility to 800,000 tonnes per annum -- turned violent. The protesters claimed the plant had been causing harm to its employees and increasing the capacity of the plant would aggravate the problems.

Meanwhile, the Union home ministry has sought a report from the Tamil Nadu government over the Tuticorin incident.

"P Chidambaram should answer on Sterlite protest, he was a paid director in the company for many years. All documents are available. He should now speak up on behalf of Sterlite," said BJP leader Subramanian Swamy.

தம் மண்ணில் சென்ற வாரம் எனக்கு உற்சாக வரவேற்பளித்து அன்பைப் பொழிந்த தூத்துக்குடி சகோதர, சகோதரிகளின் சோகத்தில் பங்கேற்க தூத்துக்குடி சென்று கொண்டிருக்கிறேன்.

— Kamal Haasan (@ikamalhaasan) May 23, 2018

Here are the top 10 developments around the Thoothukudi protests over the Sterlite expansion issue:

1.  HC orders government to preserve bodies:  The Madras High Court on Wednesday directed the state government to preserve the bodies of those killed in police firing on May 22, until further orders and also directed to file counter affidavit by May 30 on a public interest litigation from three advocates.

The bench said advocates shall be permitted to provide legal assistance to the affected persons.

2. One more killed in fresh clashes in Tamil Nadu: As the town continued to lash out, one more person was killed on Wednesday in Tuticorin. Police also fired tear gas at a crowd massed outside the Government Hospital in the town where the bodies of those killed on Tuesday were kept.

A bus was set ablaze by protestors outside the hospital, according to an ANI report. Forces have been deployed outside the hospital since the incident.

#SterliteProtest pic.twitter.com/XPKov0Ln2O

— Rajinikanth (@rajinikanth) May 23, 2018

3. Thoothukodi Superintendent transferred: Thoothukodi Superintendent of Police Thiru P Mahendran who is in the eye of a storm over police firing has been transferred to Chennai on Wednesday.

Tuticorin District Collector N Venkatesh has been transferred and Tirunelveli District collector, Sandeep Nanduri has been appointed in his place, an official release said.

Police personnel baton charge at a protestor demanding the closure of Vedanta's Sterlite Copper unit, in Tuticorin | Photo: PTI

Thiru P Mahendran, Superintendent of Police #Thoothukudi & N Venkatesh, Collector, #Thoothukudi transferred.

— ANI (@ANI) May 23, 2018

4. TN govt constitutes Inquiry Commission on Tuticorin violence: The Tamil Nadu government has constituted a one-person inquiry commission to probe the violence that took place in Tuticorin during protests against Sterlite Copper. The government has appointed retired Madras High Court judge Aruna Jagdeesan.

The inquiry will look into the "law and order incidents following the siege of the District Collectorate by thousands of persons violating prohibitory orders," an official release said on Wednesday. However, there is no clarity on when the commission would submit its report.

5. NHRC seeks report from chief secretary: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Wednesday sought a report from the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary and Director General of Police (DGP) over a police firing during protests against Sterlite Copper a day ago. The NHRC has asked them to submit their reports within two weeks.

6. Court stays construction: The Madras High Court's Madurai Bench on Wednesday put a stay on the ongoing construction of a new copper smelter by Sterlite Copper in Tuticorin under its capacity expansion efforts, according to ANI reports.

 

7. Vaiko, Haasan meet the injured: Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) Chief Vaiko on Wednesday met those injured during protests against Vedanta's Sterlite Copper.

Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) chief Kamal Haasan also met those who were injured during the anti-Sterlite protests at General Hospital in Tuticorin. The families of the victims said they were facing difficulties because of Haasan’s visit and asked him to leave, ANI reported. He demanded that Sterlite plant should be shut.

MNM, along with other Opposition parties, had condemned the violence that took place on Tuesday and blamed the AIADMK-led Tamil Nadu government for the unrest and deaths in the state.

 

8. Vedanta shares drop 6%: The stock of Vedanta on Wednesday declined six per cent after reports of 11 people losing their lives in violent protests against Vedanta's Sterlite Copper plant in Tuticorin. The stock fell by 5.80 per cent to Rs 253.85 on BSE and 6 per cent to Rs 253.75 on NSE.

9. DMK calls all-party protest: The DMK has called for an all-party protest on May 25 over the Sterlite protest incident.
"I am going to Thoothukudi (Tuticorin) tomorrow to meet those who are affected due to and are protesting against the Sterlite Plant," Stalin told reporters.

"I am not going to attend Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy's swearing-in ceremony tomorrow. I cancelled it due to the incident which took place in Thoothukudi," he added.

10. Tamil Nadu CM announces compensation: In a government statement, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E Palaniswamy announced Rs 1 million for those who lost family members, Rs 300,000 for people who were injured severely, and Rs 100,000 for those with minor injuries.

In an official statement, Sterlite Copper late on Tuesday expressed regret and sorrow over the deaths that took place during protests against it in Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin. The company said it had appealed to the government to ensure safety of the employees of the plant, as well as the surrounding communities.


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