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