On Tuesday morning, I was waiting with fellow journalists at the VVD signal on Palayamkottai Road to cover the anti-Sterlite procession towards the Thoothukudi Collectorate.
A strong posse of policemen, led by Deputy Inspector General of Police Kapil Saratkar, had erected barricades to prevent people from reaching the Collectorate.
The DIG told the agitators that they had registered their protest against Sterlite with a march from Madhakoil to the VVD signal, and urged them to give up their stir and disperse peacefully.
Even as the police were holding talks with the protesters, a section of the agitators pulled out a barricade and tried to hurl it at the police. It was then that the police began a lathicharge, around 10.30 a.m. However, the crowd, which outnumbered the police, started hurling stones at the law enforcement officers, who ran helter-skelter. As I felt that things were getting serious, I went to the Bypass Road, where the protesters were trying to sneak into the Collectorate. .Around 11 a.m., as the crowd attempted to surge into the Bypass Road, the police fired tear gas shells. Suddenly, a violent mob started chasing the Vajra [riot control] vehicle, and the police beat a retreat.
Immediately, I rushed towards the Collectorate with a few other journalists. I was perched atop a hotel building opposite the Collectorate for a vantage position to cover the goings-on. Around 11.30 a.m., a section of protesters, who barged into the Collectorate, started setting vehicles ablaze.
When some of them noticed us photographing and videographing the violent scenes, they started pelting us with stones. When we came downstairs, six to seven persons started assaulting us with clubs. Had I not covered myself with my camera bag, I would have sustained serious injuries on my neck. However, I could not prevent them from hitting my back and my arms and smashing my spectacles. One of them snatched my camera. Later, someone handed it back to me and I found that some frames had been erased.