On 22 May, nine people were killed in Tuticorin, Southern India, during protests demanding closure of a Sterlite copper plant over pollution concerns.
Residents of Tuticorin town have been demanding closure of the London-listed Vedanta mining company’s copper plant for the past 100 days.
Nearly 5,000 protesters were denied permission to march to the plant earlier that day and, according to official reports, some threw stones at police and set property on fire, prompting the police to shoot at the crowd. A government minister has ordered a judicial inquiry into the killings.
The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has written a statement condemning the killings.
“National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) strongly condemns the brutal gunning down of over 11 citizens including a 17 year old girl and violence on more than 60 persons by the Tamil Nadu Police, during the mass and largely peaceful protests against the Sterilite Copper Plant of Vedanta Pvt. Ltd. in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu.
It is known that the people of Thoothukudi have been protesting against the pollution of ground water and air by the copper smelter for years. This current phase of protest started in early march when the expansion of Sterlite plant to double capacity was announced. On the 100th day of protest against the Sterlite copper unit Ltd, thousands of people of Thoothukudi took out a pre-announced march towards the Collectorate. The march was to
reiterate their demand to shut down the existing copper smelter, causing severe pollution and health hazards. Over 10,000 people – men, women and children marched to meet the collector.
The Tamil Nadu police lathi charged, shot with tear gas and smoke bombs at the protesters without provocation. When the people ran towards the collectorate, during which time certain government vehicles were reportedly torched, the police opened fire killing over 10 people and injuring several others. Over 3,000 police personal including commandos with selfloaded rifles were deployed to bring ‘situation under control’. Reports from the ground account for police chasing and unprovoked shooting at men and women and into fishing hamlets. There are videos of police personal shooting from a safe distance atop vehicles and armed with lathi entering hospital and beating up the injured! This is nothing but a barbaric assault on the democratic rights of the people.”