Tamil Nadu protests: Sterlite plant non-operational after 9 dead in clashes

Smoke billows from burning vehicles after a violent protest demanding closure of Vedanta's Sterlite Copper unit entered the 100th day, in Tuticorin, on Tuesday. The police opened fire in which at least one man was killed.
At least nine people were killed and another 20 injured on Tuesday on the 100th day of protest against the expansion of Vedanta's Sterlite Copper unit in Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin, also known as Thoothukudi.

Later in the day, Sterlite Copper said it is unfortunate of what happened on Tuesday and called itself to be non-operational, ANI reported.

Protesters have alleged that the plant was polluting groundwater in their area. Sterlite Copper represents the copper unit of Vedanta Limited which operates a 400,000 tonnes per annum-plant in Tuticorin.

Chief Minister Palaniswami said in a statement in Chennai that the protesters took out a procession towards the collectorate in defiance of the prohibitory orders clamped in the specific area in Tuticorin.

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 out a rally to the district collectorate after they were denied permission to march to the copper smelter plant.

Police personnel prepare to tackle a crowd as agitators demanding closure of Vedanta's Sterlite Copper unit entered the 100th day, in Tuticorin, on Tuesday. The agitation turned violent with police opening fire.
Initial pushing and shoving soon led to violent clashes after agitated locals began hurling stones at police and overturned a vehicle. Security personnel used batons and burst teargas shells to break up the protest.

Many were injured in stone-pelting by the agitators, who also set some vehicles on fire. Windscreens of some government cars were smashed and bank premises were attacked by the rampaging mobs.

Police said section 144 of CrPc has been invoked in and around the Sterlite unit to provide security, according to the orders of the Madras High Court.

Meanwhile, a peaceful demonstration was held near the old bus stand in the town, also demanding the closure of the Sterlite unit and the proposed expansion of the plant.

Several shops in this town, Srivaikundam and Oddapidaram remained shut in support of the protest, police said.

The district has been witnessing several protests by locals and others against the Sterlite Copper plant in Tamil Nadu and its proposed expansion.

Here are the top highlights on Tamil Nadu protest:

Police personnel tackles the agitators demanding the closure of Vedanta's Sterlite Copper unit as the protest enters the 100th day, in Tuticorin, on Tuesday. The agitation turned violent with police opening fire.

Sterlite Copper on Tuesday expressed "great sorrow" after nine people were killed in violent clashes in Tuticorin. "The company has appealed to government and authorities to ensure safety of our employees, facilities and surrounding communities. Sterlite Copper plant is non-operational," the company said.

It's with great sorrow®ret that we witnessed today's incidents around the protest today at #Tuticorin. The company has appealed to govt&authorities to ensure safety of our employees,facilities&surrounding communities. Sterlite Copper plant is non-operational: Sterlite Copper

— ANI (@ANI) May 22, 2018

2. Chief Minister K Palaniswami announced a compensation of Rs 1 million (Rs 10 lakh) to the families of each of the deceased, and ordered judicial inquiry into the violence.

3. An official release said about 20,000 people took out a procession towards the district collectorate and the copper plant, demanding its permanent closure.

The anti-Sterlite protest in Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin
4. Following a gas leak in March 2013, the then chief minister late J Jayalalithaa, ordered its closure, following which the company moved the National Green Tribunal. With the tribunal overturning the government order, the state moved the Supreme Court against it, and the petition has been pending since. 

5. DMK working president and Leader of Opposition M K Stalin condemned the "police atrocities" and "violence" that took place in Tuticorin. He is among the several political leaders who have lent their voice to the anti-Sterlite protest.

6. Opposition parties, including Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), Congress, and the Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) slammed the violence and police action, while actor Rajinikanth, who is slated to launch his political party, held the government responsible for the deaths. Stalin and MNM founder Kamal Haasan demanded permanent closure of the plant.

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