Ten persons, including a 17-year-old girl, were killed in police firing during a massive rally taken out demanding the closure of Sterlite Copper, a Vedanta group copper smelter unit, in the port town of Thoothukudi in south Tamil Nadu on Tuesday.
The rally, in which thousands of local people participated under the banner of ‘Anti Sterlite Movement’, turned violent in the morning with sections of protesters setting fire to vehicles, including those belonging to the police.
Around 60 persons, including police personnel, suffered injuries in throwing of stones and they were admitted to the Government Medical College Hospital in Thoothukudi. Sources in the hospital said the condition of two more gunfire victims was critical.
A team of vascular surgeons from the Madurai General Hospital has been sent to Thoothukudi. On Monday night, police clamped prohibitory orders in Thoothukudi after the Movement, along with Opposition parties and traders’ and fishermen bodies, called for a march to the Collectorate demanding the closure of Sterlite Copper.
Tuesday marked the 100th day of the latest round of protests against the company, which has been accused of being responsible for air and water pollution leading to health hazards.
Violence broke out when a large number of protesters, who took out a rally from various places in Thoothukudi, moved up to the four-road intersection close to the traffic signal on Palayamkottai Road.
Since prohibitory orders were in force they were denied permission by police personnel to proceed further. The protesters then started hurling stones and footwear at policemen, who carried shields with protective outfit.
All attempts to stop the protesters failed and they marched ahead after breaking the barricades and toppling a striking force vehicle near the traffic signal. The police made yet another attempt near the Third Mile bridge on the Palayamkottai Road to control the protest. Tear gas was used to quell the rioting mob, which continued to regroup. An explosive substance was thrown at the police.
Meanwhile, a few photo journalists were manhandled by some protesters. The Hindu ’s Rajesh was assaulted and the memory card removed from his camera.
Protesters vent fury on Collectorate
The Thoothukudi Collectorate became the object of fury of the protesters.
The violence snowballed when the protesters entered the Collectorate after clearing barricades and pelted stones causing damage to window panes of office buildings.
They torched many vehicles parked on the Collectorate premises and other places.
The scene resembled a war zone in hours as about 50 two-wheelers, six government vehicles and two cars were damaged or torched by the protesters inside the Collectorate.
Smoke emanating from the Collectorate, which stood deserted, could be seen even from a distance. Almost all officials were evacuated to safer places.
Senior police officials are monitoring the situation, which was brought under control in the afternoon.