Thoothukudi Boils Again, Death Toll Rises To 12

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Tuticorin: A day after 11 people were killed after police opened fire at protesters marching against the expansion of Sterlite Copper in Tamil Nadu’s Tuticorin, another protester lost his life in fresh police firing on Wednesday. Kaliappan, 23-year-old, was shot when a group of youths were pelting a police vehicle with stones.

The protest, which has been on for over 100 days now, saw an estimated 15,000 people march towards the collectorate on Tuesday.

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Nine persons were killed and several injured on Tuesday when police opened fire Tuesday following clashes with protesters. Two protesters succumbed later. A police officer at the site said: “Police had no option but to open fire because they would have ransacked the district headquarters.”

Residents of the area have been seeking the immediate closure of the Sterlite unit since February this year. They allege waste from the unit has contaminated water bodies in the region, and that they are facing severe health problems.

The industrial unit at the centre of the controversy is one of the country’s biggest copper smelters, which is owned by Vedanta Ltd — a majority-owned subsidiary of London-listed Vedanta Resources. The company is seeking to double the capacity of the smelter to 800,000 tonnes per year. Operations at the plant had been stopped by the state government earlier but were allowed to resume by the National Green Tribunal.

Section 144 remains imposed in Tuticorin. Many commercial establishments in the city remain closed. The Central Forces have also been kept on standby to provide any assistance if required. Security was tightened outside Tuticorin’s General Hospital, where the injured are undergoing treatment. Protesters also set a bus ablaze.

Retired judge Aruna Jagadeesan has been appointed by the Tamil Nadu government to probe the police firing in Tuticorin. The state government had also announced a judicial inquiry.

The National Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary and Director general of police (DGP) and sought a report within two weeks. The commission has asked the police to submit the report within two weeks.,

A Madurai bench of the Madras High Court stayed the expansion of the Sterlite plant Wednesday. The bench insisted that the company consult with the public before expanding its unit.

Shares of Vedanta Ltd fell to their lowest since July 5, 2017 after the protests. Congress president Rahul Gandhi has claimed the protesters were killed for rejecting the ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Several celebrities in Tamil Nadu have condemned the incident, including superstars-turned-politicians Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth. Kamal Haasan visited the injured in Thoothukudi while Rajinikanth tweeted a video condemning the incident.

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