Tamil Nadu

Violence at five locations led to Thoothukudi firing: DGP

 Burning issue: The status report names only one Zonal Deputy Tahsildar who had ordered the use of firepower to disperse the crowd at Therespuram.

Burning issue: The status report names only one Zonal Deputy Tahsildar who had ordered the use of firepower to disperse the crowd at Therespuram.

In a written submission made on behalf of the Director General of Police (DGP) before the Madras High Court with respect to last week’s firing that claimed 13 lives in Thoothukudi, the Police Department has provided graphic details of its version of the incidents.

A status report filed by Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of Police (Law and Order) S. Maheshwaran, on behalf of the DGP, says that violence erupted at five different locations on May 22 and 23, forcing the police to use firearms at four of those places and resort to lathi charge alone in the fifth.

The status report names only one Zonal Deputy Tahsildar who ordered the use of firepower to disperse the crowd in Therespuram at 3 p.m. on May 22, leading to the death of J. Jancy Rani, 37, and does not name officials who ordered firing at other locations.

The report was filed by Mr. Maheshwaran in response to a public interest litigation petition filed by a group of three lawyers seeking a detailed inquiry by the Thoothukudi Principal District Judge.

According to the AIG, it was the villagers of Ayyareddiyurani alias A. Kumareddiapuram, led by Anti-Sterlite Movement president Mahesh, who began a peaceful agitation from dawn to dusk, demanding the closure of the Sterlite Copper smelter owing to environmental concerns.

Plan to lay siege to Collectorate

Days before the agitation was to reach its 100th day (May 22), representatives of various organisations passed a resolution to lay siege to the Collectorate on that day. Immediately, revenue and police officials called for a peace meeting wherein it was agreed to hold peaceful protests.

On May 22, a huge crowd gathered near the Lady of Snow Church and it started moving towards the Collectorate. Similarly, villagers around the copper plant assembled at the Madathur junction and began marching towards the Collectorate. Around 20,000 people were present.

They indulged in “various violent activities and reached the Collectorate with a virulent face. Efforts to stop them at various places ended in vain. When they reached the Collectorate, the violent mob pelted stones, attacked police personnel and damaged police and public vehicles. All efforts to control and dispose [sic] the violent crowd failed,” the AIG said, and went on to state that a mob entered the residential quarters of Sterlite company employees adjacent to the Collectorate and set fire to a power generator and all vehicles parked in the apartments.

“The inmates, around 150 family members, were struggling for life. The mob in front of the Collectorate did not allow any fire engine or rescue team to enter the burning premises… As a last resort, to safeguard the lives of Collectorate staff, policemen and the 150 residents of Sterlite quarters, controlled use of fire [arms] was resorted to in and around the Collectorate complex,'' the AIG said.

Estimate of loss

An Executive Engineer attached to the Public Works Department had assessed the damage caused to the Collectorate and allied government offices to be ₹28.12 lakh. Further, damage to vehicles, a police booth and a government liquor shop was assessed to be ₹15.67 crore.

Thereafter, at 1 p.m. on the same day, a mob of around 3,000 people moved towards the Food Corporation of India roundabout and started pelting stones. The rioters did not retreat despite the use of tear gas and lathi charge. They, instead, assaulted and attempted to kill policemen. This time again, the police opened fire leading to the death of M. Karthik, 20. At about 1.35 p.m., the retreating mob as well as a crowd from the other side attacked the policemen once again. Two government buses were burnt down. The police managed to disperse the mob through lathi charge, and another case of rioting was booked in connection with this incident. At 3 p.m., Deputy Tahsildar Kannan issued orders for opening fire at Therespuram and it led to the death of one Rani. Further, three government-run liquor shops in Muthukrishnapuram, Ponnagaram and Sundaravelpuram were damaged during this bout of violence.

Property damaged

On May 23, a violent mob of around 1,000 people started rioting at Anna Nagar Main Road and damaged a liquor shop at Toovipuram, besides setting ablaze government properties around the area. The police opened fire once again killing S. Kaliappan, 22, of Mappillaiyurani.

The AIG also stated the then Superintendent of Police P. Mahendran (since transferred) also sustained injuries during the violence.

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Printable version | Jun 28, 2022 9:32:52 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/violence-at-five-locations-led-to-thoothukudi-firing-dgp/article24050895.ece