9 die in police firing in southern India

9 die in police firing in southern India

Chennai: Nine people were killed as police opened fire on protesters who went on a rampage today demanding closure of a copper smelting plant in Tamil Nadu's port city of Tuticorin, prompting the ruling AIADMK government to issue appeals for calm and a promise to take legal action against the plant.

"The gunning down by the police of nine people in the Sterlite protest in Tamil Nadu is a brutal example of state-sponsored terrorism". To mark the 100th day of the protest for the closure of the plant, the protesters chose to march towards the Collector's office. Initial pushing and shoving soon led to violent clashes, after agitated locals began hurling stones at police and overturned a vehicle. The protesters also tried to gheraoed the collector's office.

Police resorted to lathicharge, tear gas and water cannons, but have denied using bullets.

While over 20 people suffered minor injuries during stone-pelting, some vehicles were set on fire, leading to tension in the area, they added.

The protests have been taking place for over a month demanding the closure of Vedanta's Sterlite Copper Unit.

The plant, which can produce 400,000 tonnes of copper a year, has been shut for more than 50 days and will remain closed until at least June 6 because the local pollution regulator will not allow it to operate due to alleged non-compliance with environmental rules.

How did Sterlite come to Tamil Nadu?

According to some reports, DMK cadre joined the protesters on the 100th day of the protest and attempted to stage a dharna outside the Thoothukudi Collector's office.

More than 2,000 police personnel have been moved from nearby districts to Tuticorin to bring the situation under control.

"The police had to take action under unavoidable circumstances to protect public life and property as the protesters resorted to repeated violence. police had to control the violence", Palaniswami, who holds the Home portfolio, said.

As per the orders of the Madras High Court, police said that Section 144 of CrPc had been invoked around the Sterlite unit to provide security to it. Sterlite Cooper claims that it has all the requisite permits and has not violated any norms. "It's a total failure of police intelligence", Stalin said.

Actors Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth, who recently announced their entry into politics, have also expressed solidarity with the protesters.

The minister said the government had not given the licence for expansion of the plant. Other parties including MDMK, CPM and VCK also blamed the government and condemned the police firing.

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.

Protesters say the plant is polluting ground water in the area and threatens the fishing industry.