'Facsist police': In TN's Tuticorin, anti-Sterlite protest turns violent

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Nine people have been killed on Tuesday during a protest held in Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin, demanding a ban on Sterlite Industries, in wake of the pollution emitted by the plants. More than 65 people have been injured in the clashes between agitated protestors and police officials. However, everything turned futile, when the protests took a violent turn on the 100th day of the protest.

They then started hurling stones at police and also overturned a vehicle after which the security personnel lobbed teargas shells to disperse them, the police said. In an angry retaliation, the protesters set Thoothukudi Collector office premises and the quarters of Sterlite employees on fire.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami said the police had to resort to firing to control the situation because the protestors indulged in violence.

Many were injured in stone-pelting by the agitators, who also set some vehicles on fire.

The agitation against Sterlite Copper, which represents the copper unit of Vedanta Limited, escalated in February this year after the company announced the expansion of its unit in the coastal city of Thoothukudi (Tuticorin) in Tamil Nadu.

At present, the company operates a 400,000-tonne per annum plant.

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Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan who recently formed his own party "Makkal Neethi Mayyam" also condemned Sterlite Copper.

Following a Madras High Court directive, the district authorities had issued prohibitory orders under section 144 of CrPC, barring assembly of more than four people in and around the Sterlite plant. "We have brought the situation under control", he said, assuring to conduct an inquiry on whether there were any excesses on the part of the police.

Over 4,000 police personnel from the nearby district have been deployed to prevent crowding proved futile, as the protesters at various areas breached the barricades and marched forward towards the collectorate.

Opposition parties including DMK blamed the AIADMK government and police for turning the peaceful protest into a violent one. The protestors are mainly locals of the Thoothukudi district who have been demanding for years now that the copper plant be shut down on account of a tremendous amount of poisonous gas polluting the area's land and water.

"To bring the violence under control, under unavoidable circumstances, police had to take action". He further urges the government to provide Rs 1 crore for each of the deceased's family.

Thousands of protesters, especially from Kumarettiyapuram, have been up against the plant's proposed expansion plans citing the threat it poses to the people in neighbouring villages. He said that the alleged violations at the existing factory complex need to be investigated and even the existing plant should be closed if found in violation of norms and laws.

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