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Jury still out on what triggered the violence

Police rebut ‘intelligence failure’ charge; say revolutionary groups have hijacked the protest and given it a violent dimension

May 23, 2018 01:19 am | Updated 01:19 am IST - THOOTHUKUDI

Chaos reigns: Police personnel resorting to a lathicharge to disperse anti-Sterlite protesters in Thoothukudi on Tuesday. N. Rajesh

Chaos reigns: Police personnel resorting to a lathicharge to disperse anti-Sterlite protesters in Thoothukudi on Tuesday. N. Rajesh

Following Tuesday’s violence which led to police firing during the anti-Sterlite agitation in Thoothukudi, officials of the Revenue department and the police came up with different versions of what led to the deterioration of the law and order situation on the ground. While Revenue officials felt the Intelligence Wing of the police had failed to foresee a protest of such magnitude, the police alleged that the involvement of members of a few “radical groups” in the agitation motivated the protesters to indulge in violence.

The police claimed that the “infiltration” of the anti-Sterlite agitation by members of a few “revolutionary groups” added a violent dimension to the stir. Some residents of A. Kumareddiyarpuram, Kazhuthaikoottam alias Silverpuram, Pandaarampatti, Madathur and S. Veerapandiapuram, situated near the Sterlite copper unit, where people have been holding agitations for the past several weeks, acknowledged that the presence of a few “outsiders” might have undermined the “peaceful agitation.”

“The fiery speech by the ‘outsiders’ added vigour to the ongoing peaceful anti-Sterlite agitation in our village. They asked us to wage a spirited fight against the official machinery if we really wanted to ensure the permanent closure of Sterlite copper. Now, the agitation, which was going along a peaceful path, has lost its way and several lives [have also been lost],” said a teacher.

The police claimed that these “outsiders”, including women, had strong connections with “extremist organisations that do not believe in peaceful agitations.”

A retired college professor said the police should have taken the invitation posted on social media, calling on the residents of Thoothukudi to participate in the “all-out anti-Sterlite agitation”, seriously. “The words used in the invitation were quite disturbing.It encouraged them to do whatever they could to ensure its [Sterlite’s] immediate and permanent closure,” he said.

Presence of ‘outsiders’

A special branch constable, who keenly followed the protests, said a group of people, who guided the anti-hydrocarbon and pro-jallikattu protests, had visited these hamlets a few weeks ago in five batches. “They were in constant touch with the locals. After their visit, the anti-Sterlite slogans raised by locals assumed more vigour. The street plays and songs resembled those during the jallikattu and anti-hydrocarbon agitations,” he said.

However, the police are yet to come up with an explanation as to why these “outsiders” were not singled out and nabbed earlier.

“Only after the loss of lives in the police firing, the number of policemen deployed iwas increased from 1,500 to 2,500. This is due to the failure of intelligence,” a senior Revenue official said.

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