As the Madras High Court rejected a plea by natural resources company Vedanta seeking permission to reopen its Sterlite copper smelting plant, there was widespread celebration on Tuesday, in Thoothukudi, the Pearl City.
Anti-Sterlite protesters, activists and political party leaders, including DMK MLA Geetha Jeevan, were seen distributing sweets and bursting crackers hailing the Madras High Court verdict.
As the judgement was along expected lines, tension in the town melted at around 10.45 a.m.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) functionaries, led by the party’s district secretary and one of the petitioners against Sterlite Copper, Arjunan, distributed sweets to the public near Rajaji Park, welcoming the verdict.
Social media platforms, particularly the local WhatsApp groups, were overflowing with messages hailing the verdict and glorifying those who were shot dead and injured in the police firing .
Ahead of the verdict, the police did not want to take any chances. Police personnel led by Superintendent of Police S. Jayakumar and drawn from four southern districts, had taken positions at vantage locations in and around the Sterlite Plant and across the district’s entry/exit points from as early as 6 a.m.
In the morning, when a group of anti-Sterlite protestors including Mahesh, Krishnamurthy and Prabhu, assembled near Rajaji Park close to the Thoothukudi Medical College Hospital, the police had asked them not to organise any celebration or protest after the judgement, as the COVID-19 lockdown was in force.
“Four Additional Superintendents of Police, 12 Deputy Superintendents of Police, 46 Inspectors of Police and 85 Sub-Inspectors of Police have been deployed in and around Thoothukudi since early Tuesday morning as part of the security arrangement put in place in the wake of the judgement,” said Mr. Jayakumar.
After assembling at the District Police Office grounds in the Collectorate premises in the early hours of Tuesday, the police teams moved to various points. Based on the nature of these points categorised as sensitive, and hypersensitive, additional policemen were deployed. Deputy Inspector General of Police, Tirunelveli Range, Praveen Kumar Abinapu, was camping at Thoothukudi.
The Madras High Court’s directive to not to open the Sterlite Plant, came as a huge relief to the law enforcers.