- 10 people were killed in police firing during anti-Sterlite protests
- DMK compared the incident to the 1919 Jallianwalla Bagh massacre
- E Palaniswami has ordered a judicial inquiry into the violence
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.
Who ordered the police firing on protestors? Why were automatic weapons used to disperse the crowd and under what law is this permitted? Why were rubber/ plastic bullets or other means NOT used to avoid fatal injuries? Why was no warning given before firing? #SterliteProtest— M.K.Stalin (@mkstalin) May 23, 2018
Why was there not adequate police presence to maintain law and order during #SterliteProtest? Is it accurate to say that there was a total failure of State intelligence which led to these unfortunate deaths? Did IG-Intelligence brief police and @CMOTamilNadu on the situation?— M.K.Stalin (@mkstalin) May 23, 2018
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.
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.