Published: Sat, May 26, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Protests Against Vedanta-Plant: 10 Killed in Tamil Nadu

Protests Against Vedanta-Plant: 10 Killed in Tamil Nadu

Condemning police brutality in Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu, where at least 11 protesters, agitating against a sterlite plant, were killed in police firing, members of Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India (CPI), and Socialist Unity Centre of India staged a protest here on Thursday.

Residents of the port city of Thootukudi in Tamil Nadu state and environmentalists have been demonstrating against one of India's biggest copper plants for more than three months, alleging it is a major source of pollution and a risk to fisheries.

Media reports from the town of Tuticorin say that pushing and shoving between protesters and police turned more violent on Tuesday, with demonstrators pelting police with stones, overturning cars and setting fires.

Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami has ordered a judicial inquiry into the shootings but defended the police response.

"Certain vested interests will prefer India to remain import dependent and use our country as their market, making India spend hard-earned foreign exchange and lose millions of jobs", he said, in reference to a court-ordered stoppage of iron ore mining in Goa state, the campaign against the Thoothukudi copper plant and a shortage of bauxite for an aluminum smelter.

However no one had been working at the Sterlite Copper subsidiary of Vedanta Resources for nearly two months. The smelter has been shut since March 27 after it was closed for 15 days for a scheduled maintenance.

Outrage over the police killings grew on Wednesday, and was fuelled by a video showing a plainclothes police officer boarding a bus and firing his rifle at protesters. He said that the police acted in self-defence and that anti-social elements attacked them in the guise of the agitation.

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The company has sought to renew the licence of the temporarily non-operational plant and hopes to double its production capacity.

The head of the national opposition Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, condemned the use of lethal force, calling it "a brutal example of state-sponsored terrorism".

In a highly unfortunate incident, ten people were killed in "police action" against anti-Sterlite protesters in Tuticorin of Tamil Naidu.

"We fired live ammunition in the air to disperse the protesters". The company has appealed to government and authorities to ensure safety of our employees, facilities, and surrounding communities.

A spokeswoman for Vedanta Resources said it had witnessed the deaths at the protest "with great sorrow and regret".

Thoothukudi was also the site of violent protests in 2012 over a nuclear power plant in neighbouring Kudankulam district that left one person dead.

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