"Jallianwala Bagh": DMK Barb On Police Firing at Sterlite Protest

The Tamil Nadu government is facing criticism for the police action on anti-Sterlite protesters that cost 10 lives.

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Anti-Sterlite protesters attacked district collector's office in Tuticorin and set vehicles on fire


Chennai: 

Highlights

  1. 10 people were killed in police firing during anti-Sterlite protests
  2. DMK compared the incident to the 1919 Jallianwalla Bagh massacre
  3. E Palaniswami has ordered a judicial inquiry into the violence
A day after 10 people were killed in police firing during anti-Sterlite protests in Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin, the opposition DMK compared the incident to the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, in which British soldiers opened fire on crowds at a public meeting. "Who ordered police firing on protesters," questioned DMK leader MK Stalin, targeting the AIADMK government of E Palaniswami.

Harsh criticism had pushed Mr Palaniswami to order a judicial inquiry into the violence in Tuticorin, in which the police opened fire on protesters who hit the streets yesterday. The protesters were demanding the permanent closure of a copper smelting plant that has been accused of polluting the area. The police claimed they had opened fire after the mob went on rampage. Chief Minister Palaniswami called it a case of "unavoidable circumstances" where the police had to act to protect lives and public property.

Calling Tamil Nadu a "fascist regime" and a "police state", DMK leader Sarvanan said, "A recent survey shows that maximum protests happen in TN. That's because of the inefficiency of the government. This is a Jallianwalah Bagh type of massacre. The government should pack up and go".  

In a series of tweets this morning, DMK chief MK Stalin raised a number of questions, including who had ordered the police firing on protestors.
  
A video from Tuticorin released by news agency ANI showed a policeman crawl on his belly to take position on the top of a bus and get prepared to shoot. In the background, a voice is heard -- "At least one should die". Seconds later he fires the first shot.

Despite hectic pictures and video pouring in from Tuticorin - now called Thoothukudi -- since early afternoon, Mr Palaniswami's government took time to confirm the deaths. Late in the evening, the Chief Minister confirmed nine deaths. In his condolence message, Governor Banwarilal Purohit had put the figure at 11.

There has been no response from the government since, which has drawn harsh criticism from other political parties. Congress president Rahul Gandhi called the police action "state sponsored terrorism". Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, sent messages of condolence at the deaths.

Prohibitory orders banning large gatherings are in place at the port city, where the activists had been protesting for the last 100 days. Actor-politician Kamal Haasan visited the hospital in Tuticorin this morning, where  42 people are admitted, some of them in serious condition.

The Sterlite copper plant -- one of the largest in the country -- has been blamed for a huge outbreak of health issues observed in the area related to gas leakage. In 2013, the Supreme Court ordered the company to pay a Rs 100-crore fine.

But despite the fine and a shutdown by pollution regulator for not sticking to safety rules, the group wanted to double the plant's capacity. It triggered the protest, which has been backed by Kamal Haasan and fellow actor-politician Rajinikanth.


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