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Protests against Vedanta copper smelter in Tuticorin turn violent
23 May 2018, 12:42 | Rodolfo Wallace
Vedanta Sterlite Tamil Nadu Violence: 9 Dead As Police Fire During ...
According to the minister, police resorted to firing after over 20,000 people, who were staging a protest demanding the closure of a copper smelting plant in Tuticorin, suddenly went on a rampage, vandalizing government property and offices.
Locals have been protesting against Vedanta's plans to expand the smelter, run by its Sterlite Copper unit. Plumes of black smoke emanated from the protest site.
With respect to the violence, he said the situation was "under control".
Among those who died were identified as Antony Selvaraj, Kandiah, Gladson, Jayaram, Maniraj, Tamilarasan, Shanmugham and Venista. Many of them were admitted to hospitals for treatment.
Among the injured was a 16-year-old schoolgirl who was waiting for her bus when she was hit by a bullet.
While opposition leader M.K. Stalin condemned the "police atrocities" and blamed the "inept government", the Communist Party of India (Marxist) state secretary K. Balakrishnan demanded Palaniswami's resignation.
Meanwhile, condemning the police action and the state government, the opposition and various organizations protested across the state. The protesters threw stones at the collector's office, Mr Palaniswami said in a statement.
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The government said it was committed in respecting people's aspirations and was working in sync with that. At least thirty others have been injured, N Venkatesh, District Collector, Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu told ET on the phone.
Several vehicles were also set ablaze further escalating tension in the area. As protestors started pelting stones enroute, police had to use mild lathi-charge to disperse the crowd and also teargas.
The protesters alleged that the police had used force unnecessarily and without provocation on the peaceful gathering. It also claims that the well-being of communities around it is the primary commitment of the company. Heavy police deployment could be seen in Thoothukudi and surrounding areas of the coastal city.
Jayakumar said compensation would be announced for families of victims, but added his government hadn't received official information about the death toll.
Support has poured in for the current phase of protests from political quarters including a publicised visit by actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan, MDMK chief Vaiko, VCK chief Thol. The TN government must take action over the concerns expressed by the protesters, they said. The activists believe that a plant such as Sterlite Copper plant would require large amounts of surface water and resources and hence could end up facilitating depletion of drinking water in the area and a shortage of agricultural supply, Indian Express reported.
Locals have said the plant is polluting air and groundwater in the region.
Police said almost 5000 protesters gathered near a local church and insisted on taking out a rally to the district collectorate after they were denied permission to march to the copper smelter plant.
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