Chennai: The Madras High Court asked for an explanation from the Tamil Nadu government on what led to the police firing and the violent clashes over a controversial copper plant in which 13 people died last week.
The court has sought an answer from the AIADMK government on who ordered the police to open fire. and asked the government file the report in five days.
Violent clashes broke out last Tuesday in Tuticorin as the police tried to stop protesters from marching to the district collectorate. Ten people died in the violence. Later, a video showing the police taking strategic position atop a bus and shooting at the crowd below, triggered outrage. Clashes broke out again, two days later. An administration officer had claimed that he had asked the police to open fire, because the protesters were planning to set fire to the collectorate and the adjoining living quarters of Sterlite employees.
A First Information Report or FIR filed by the police says Sekhar - a junior officer in the Revenue Department - claimed that ahead of the police lathicharge and firing, a warning was issued on microphone, which was disregarded by protesters. The police said they were forced to open fire as violence broke out during the protesters' march to the collectorate. They said members of fringe groups like Makkal Adhikari and Naam Tamizhar Katchi were among the protesters and instigated the violence.
The locals in the area, however, contested the claims in the FIR. Not only was any microphone warning not given, the police did not even use rubber bullets in the beginning, as rules require, they said on condition of anonymity
The protests began three months ago, demanding a permanent closure of the Sterlite plant, owned by London-listed Vedanta Resources, on environmental grounds. Residents and environmental activists say emissions from the plant, India's second biggest, are polluting the air and water, affecting people's health. The video of the mother of an injured man confronting minister 'Kadambur' Raju was widely shared online.
The court asked Tamil Nadu police not to disturb the families of the missing people against whom complaints have been registered, in the name of enquiry.