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Saturday, Sep 21, 2019

In FIR, Tamil Nadu govt official says ordered police firing that killed Sterlite protesters

Sekar, deputy tehsildar of Thoothukudi, says a warning, baton charge and tear gas shelling could not stop the Sterlite protesters in Thoothukudi, which is also known as Tuticorin.

india Updated: May 29, 2018 10:10 IST
Agencies, Chennai/Tuticorin
A private security guard stands in front of the main gate of Sterlite Industries Ltd's copper plant, in Tuticorin, in Tamil Nadu.
A private security guard stands in front of the main gate of Sterlite Industries Ltd's copper plant, in Tuticorin, in Tamil Nadu.(Reuters File Photo)

A government official says he ordered the police firing that killed 13 protesters near Vedanta group’s copper plant in Tamil Nadu’s Tuticorin after all other options failed, according to media reports.

Facing criticism for the police action, the government ordered the state pollution control board on Monday to seal and “permanently” close the plant. Vedanta Ltd termed the move “unfortunate” and said it will decide the future course of action after studying the development.

An FIR filed on May 22, the day protests turned violent, says Sekar, deputy tehsildar of Thoothukudi, admitted that he ordered the firing to maintain law and order failed, news agency IANS reported.

Sekar says he warned the protesters that force will be used but they did not pay heed to it. The official says he then ordered a baton charge. As the crowd advanced and attacked police, Sekar says he ordered the firing of tear gas shells. The official says when this too failed to disperse the mob, which was destroying public property, he ordered firing as the last option.

Opposition parties in Tamil Nadu have criticised the government for the police action against civilians protesting against the Sterlite copper smelting plant.

After the deaths, the Opposition asked chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami to fix responsibility, a court suspended the expansion of the facility and India’s human rights watchdog sent notices to the Tamil Nadu government.

The plant, one of India’s largest such facilities, has had a troubled history since it began operations in 1996. People have blamed it for their failing health and a major gas leak in 2013 led the Supreme Court imposing a Rs 100- crore fine. The plant has been closed down repeatedly in the past two decade, the last time by the Madras high court in 2013 over similar pollution concerns.

First Published: May 29, 2018 08:23 IST