The First Information Reports (FIRs), filed in the Thoothukudi Sipcot, Thoothukudi North and Thoothukudi South police stations in relation to the police firing on anti-Sterlite protesters on May 22 and 23 , reveal that the shooting orders were issued by officers in the rank of deputy tahsildars.
While the three FIRs solely blame the protesters for “violence” that “forced” the officials to issue the firing order, activists allege that the events described in the FIRs were fabricated.
The FIR filed at the Thoothukudi Sipcot police station, based on a complaint by P. Sekar, Special Deputy Tahsildar (Election), said 10,000 protesters marched to the Collectorate with “deadly weapons” on Tuesday morning, in violation of the prohibitory order issued under Section 144 of the CrPC.
Mr. Sekar alleged that they hurled petrol bombs, burnt vehicles and attacked the public and police personnel with an “intention to murder.” The police tried in vain to disperse the protesters with warnings, tear gas and a lathicharge, he said.
The official said he had to issue the firing order as a last resort. The police opened fire in the air first and at the crowd later, in which two were injured on the Collectorate premises. Though the police tried to take the injured to hospital in an ambulance, the protesters attacked the vehicle.
However, Henri Tiphagne, executive director of civil rights group People’s Watch, alleged that there were no ambulances for the injured. He also questioned the claims of the police that they resorted to warnings, tear gas and lathi charge before opening fire.
M. Kannan, Thoothukudi Zonal Deputy Tahsildar, was the complainant in the FIR filed in the Thoothukudi North police station for the firing at Threspuram on Tuesday afternoon. The FIR said 400 men and 100 women entered the police quarters near the ESI Hospital on the North Beach Road with sticks, petrol bombs and machetes, and attacked the police and damaged property.
A team headed by the Superintendent of Police, which rushed to the spot, opened fire on the orders of Mr. Kannan, after warnings, lobbing of teargas and failure of a lathi charge, the FIR said.
J. Jansi, 42, of Threspuram, was injured in the firing and taken to the hospital by the police, but doctors declared her 'brought dead', according to the FIR.
K. Samuel Raj, State general secretary, Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF), termed the FIR a blatant lie.
“According to her family and eyewitness accounts, a police vehicle came with sirens when a group of people at Threspuram was discussing the morning’s events. As the crowd dispersed, the police attacked the houses and damaged properties. Jansi was shot from the police van when she yelled using curse words,” he alleged.
The third FIR, filed on the basis of a complaint by S. Chandran, Thoothukudi Divisional Excise Officer, at the Thoothukudi South police station, provided a similar narrative that ended in the firing in Anna Nagar on Wednesday, in which one person was killed.
Human rights activist A. Marx, who, along with his team, obtained the FIRs as part of a fact-finding mission, said all the narratives in the FIRs were fabricated to exonerate the police and the district administration.
A. Kathir, executive director of NGO Evidence, questioned why the police could not release any CCTV footage showing the protesters engaging in arson. “Importantly, why was the District Collector not present in Thoothukudi when the incidents happened” he asked.