Thoothukudi still on boil; 1 more killed

Thoothukudi still on boil; 1 more killed

A man was shot dead in police firing today following fresh clashes between security personnel and locals demanding the closure of Vedanta group's Sterlite Copper plant over pollution concerns, a day after police action left 10 protesters dead. PTI Photo

The city  continued to be on the edge for the second consecutive day on Wednesday with one more youth being killed in fresh police firing. With this, the death toll from anti-Sterlite protests have gone up to 12.

The protests against the proposed expansion of Sterlite Industries’ copper smeltering plant at a cost of Rs 2,500 crore in Thoothukudi turned bloody on Tuesday when police firing killed 11 people and injured dozens of people. The protesters were marching towards the Thoothukudi Collectorate, 5 kms away from the centre of the city, when they turned violent prompting police to use extreme force to disperse them and bring the situation under control.

As relatives of the 11 victims refused to accept the bodies, the police fought pitched battles with residents in several areas, especially in the locality near the District Government Hospital. The police resorted to mild lathi charge through the day to disperse the crowd outside the hospital.

The hospital saw many high-profile visitors in Opposition Leader M K Stalin, MDMK chief Vaiko and Makkal Needhi Maiam chief Kamal Haasan.

As the police went for routine check at Anna Nagar, yards away from the government hospital, some locals are said to have pelted stones at them prompting them to use force. As police used guns to bring the situation under control, 22-year-old Kaliappan was killed in the 6th Street of Anna Nagar.

Video footage showed police firing at Kaliappan, who fell to the ground instantly. As cries of locals rented the air, police dragged his body and transported it to the hospital through an ambulance. The fresh violence led to heightening of tension in the port city that has seen peaceful protest over the issue since mid-February.

Incidents of stone pelting against policemen and burning of private and government vehicles were reported from across the town. As the situation went out of control, government suspended internet services in Thoothukudi and neighbouring Kanniyakumari and Tirunelveli districts and was reported to have sought the help of paramilitary forces to control the protesters.

Patients and relatives attending to them complained that enough medical facilities were not available and that they have not even been provided basic amenities like drinking water. Relatives of the deceased also held protests outside the hospital and refused to receive the bodies of their loved ones.

As the situation remained grim, the Tamil Nadu government transferred District Collector Venkatesh and Superintendent of Police Mahendran from the district. The action came hours before Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami met Governor Banwarilal Purohit to brief him about the situation.

In a statement, Vedanta said it has moved top officials and other employees from outside Tuticorin to other places. Apartments housing employees were attacked by agitators.