State Chief Minister E Palaniswami has confirmed the deaths and firmly announced a judicial probe into the violent incident. People are demanding the closure of the plant from the past 100 days.
The chief minister has stated that the protesters took out a procession towards the Thoothukudi collectorate defying prohibitory orders in the area. They initiated the violence by throwing stones at policemen and have also set their vehicles on fire and damaged vehicles parked at the collectorate. In order to control the protestors the police had to take action under unavoidable circumstances to protect public life and property.
Though the chief minister stated that the police action was unavoidable, but visuals telecasted by Tamil TV channels Puthiya Thalamurai and News 18 Tamil Nadu show policemen in plain clothes were taking aim from top of a police van and firing at protesters.
In the video, the protesters don’t seem to be in the near vicinity of the police. Reportedly police took aim from vantage points on roofs of buildings too.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi termed the deaths in police firing during protests against the Sterlite copper plant in Tamil Nadu a “brutal example of state-sponsored terrorism.”
But a statement by People’s Watch (human rights organization) which was present on the ground to monitor the protest said that the police tried to lathi charge protesters several times, but they failed to disperse the crowds. Lathi charge had no impact on the protestors but angered them more.
“The protest, which was at first peaceful and included a diverse gathering including persons with disabilities and transgender persons, soon turned violent as a result of the police shooting at the Collectorate. As soon as people found out that fellow protesters were shot dead by the police and several others were left injured, they resorted to violence,” People’s watch added.
Ruling AIADMK government issued appeals for calm and a promise to take legal action against the plant.
The protest is supported by numerous political parties and even their leaders, including Kamal Haasan.
A similar kind of protest was launched on March 24, in Thoothukudi which saw two lakh residents assembled peacefully to express their displeasure over copper smelting plant activities.