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Stalin blames BJP and AIADMK for deaths of anti-Sterlite protesters

Chennai Raising the poll pitch in Tamil Nadu, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief M K Stalin on Monday alleged that the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were hand in glove in the police firing that claimed 13 lives during the anti-Sterlite protests in Thoothukudi in 2018
By Divya Chandrababu
PUBLISHED ON MAR 23, 2021 12:02 AM IST

Chennai Raising the poll pitch in Tamil Nadu, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief M K Stalin on Monday alleged that the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were hand in glove in the police firing that claimed 13 lives during the anti-Sterlite protests in Thoothukudi in 2018.

Besides this, Stalin also referred to the alleged custodial deaths of P Jeyaraj and his son, J Bennicks, who were picked up in June last year for reportedly running their mobile shop beyond the designated hours during the coronavirus lockdown.

Recalling the protests against the Sterlite plant, Stalin, who was addressing a poll campaign in Thoothukudi, said: “They were peaceful protesters who were marching towards the district administration, demanding that the pollution-causing Sterlite plant be shut and they were shot down like crows.”

“As soon as I heard the news, I came to Thoothukudi. I never saw such a scene in my life and we should never see it again. The perpetrators have still not been punished. We should teach this government a lesson,” he added.

In 2018, 13 people were killed after villagers in Tuticorin clashed with the police during an agitation against the proposed expansion of a copper smelter of Sterlite Copper, a unit of the Vedanta group, over pollution concerns.

Accusing the BJP-led Centre for allegedly stalling the probe led by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the firing, Stalin alleged that Justice Aruna Jagadeesan commission appointed by Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami had not submitted a report into the incident even after three years.

“The two regimes have come together for the election. Don’t you want to teach them a lesson?” Stalin told the crowd. “When reporters asked the chief minister (about the firing), he said that he had just watched it on the news. How can he continue in this post?”

Attacking the government over the custodial death of the father-son duo, Stalin alleged that a First Information Report (FIR) filed by the police said that Jayaraj and Benicks died due to the injuries they had sustained when they rolled on the ground to evade arrest, a claim that was later debunked from the CCTV footage of the store.

AIADMK’s sitting MLA and incumbent S P Shanmuganathan from Srivaikuntam constituency in Thoothukudi denied the charges. “The wrong-doers are being punished and the victims’ families were compensated by our government,” Shanmuganathan said, adding: “The problem is over, Stalin is just taking it up for politics. Those who were affected by these two incidents are ready to support the AIADMK.”

Nine policemen were sent to jail on charges of murder with the Madurai bench of the Madras high court dismissing the bail pleas of four of them on Monday.

The DMK chief lauded the district for standing up for their rights during these two incidents.

The DMK and its allies (Communist parties, Congress, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and Indian Union Muslim League) are contesting in six assembly constituencies in Thoothukudi, where the AIADMK and DMK have three seats each.

Stalin’s sister K Kanimozhi was elected as an MP from Thoothukudi Lok Sabha constituency in the 2019 elections and has been at the forefront of the protests in the above two cases.

This time, TTV Dhinakaran, the chief ministerial candidate of the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK), is also contesting from one of the assembly constituencies – Kovilpatti – of the district to take on AIADMK’s incumbent MLA and information minister Kadambur Raju.

In 2016 assembly polls, Raju won this seat by a thin margin of 428 votes.

Dhinkaran, meanwhile, is banking on the support of the Mukkalathor community to which his family, including his aunt and former chief minister J Jayalaithaa’s aide V K Sasikala and deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam belong.

CPI(M)’s K Srinivasan will also fight the polls from this seat.

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