Internet services in three districts of Tamil Nadu — Thoothukudi (Tuticorin), Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari — have been suspended for five days in view of the ongoing protest by locals who are demanding the closure of the Sterlite Copper plant. Officials said that the decision to suspend data services in three districts has been taken as a precaution to stop the spread of rumours. It came into effect on Wednesday evening and will remain in force till May 29. The directive was issued by the Chief Secretary. Officials said that provocative messages with half truths are being circulated by anti-social elements on social media platforms.
On Wednesday, one more person was killed in fresh police firing as the town continued to smoulder for the second consecutive day. The death toll now stands at 13. Worried over the persistent mass anger, the administration extended imposition of Section 144 to restrict movement of people. However, thousands of people gathered outside the main hospital here opposing autopsy on those killed on Tuesday. People have been protesting against the expansion of Sterlite factory at Thoothukudi.
On Tuesday, around 20,000 people who have been protesting for last three months, gathered at the protesting site and started to march towards the district collector’s office. It was then, the police had to resort to baton charge and open fire to control the unruly crowd. Locals say that pollution emanating from the smelting plant was destroying the farm lands, water and causing an adverse impact on health.
Thoothkudi anti-Sterlite protest: Top developments so far
1. The fresh death reported on Wednesday added to the anger of the protestors. The man was killed in police firing in Anna Nagar. While protestors said that the police action was unprovoked, police claimed that it had to open fire after locals pelted stones on them. Also, thousands of people protested outside the main hospital here to protest against police and opposed the autopsy on those killed in police firing. Police had to fire tear gas shells near the hospital to disperse the crowd.
2. The incident has put the AIADMK government in a spot with opposition parties criticising the state administration for its failure to maintain law and order situation. They are now demanding the resignation of CM Palaniswami. DMK working president MK 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. Both Stalin and PMK founder S Ramadoss asked the Chief Minister to resign.
3. Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan visited Tuticorin and met the victims. He demanded to know who ordered the police firing. Later, he was booked by the police for violating the prohibitory order. Superstar Rajinikanth also condemned the police firing. He said that the incident was a failure of intelligence and excessive police force. DMDK founder Vijayakanth urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene into the matter and ensure that the Sterlite plant was shut down permanently.
4. In Chennai, CM K Palaniswami held a series of meetings with top government officials and the police chief to discuss the situation. The government has set up a one-man committee headed by retired Madras High Court judge Aruna Jagadeesan to probe the mayhem.
5. The Madras High Court on Wednesday stayed the expansion of Sterlite Copper, which represents the copper unit of Vedanta Limited. The company currently operates 4 lakh tonne unit (per annum) in the Tuticorin, 650km from Chennai. It has plans to double its capacity. The court ruled that the application for environmental clearance must be obtained by the company only after a mandatory public hearing. It also ordered that a decision on this must be taken by September 23.
6. Tension remained high in the city on Wednesday after video clips emerged showing police beating a youth later succumbed to injures. The video was purportedly captured by a media person. It shows a man, identified as Kaliappan, lying on the road and police officials beating him and asking stop acting ad get up. The man later died.
7. News agency ANI reported that so far 67 people have been arrested so far for indulging in violence. No fresh protest has been reported overnight. Police said that officials have been deployed in large numbers in the sensitive coastal areas. Around 70 injured people are undergoing treatment at different hospitals in the city.