Police Open Fire As Anti-Sterlite Protests Turn Violent In Tamil Nadu, Death toll reaches 9

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CHENNAI:  Police opened fire at protests who went on a rampage today demanding closure of a copper smelting plant in Tamil Nadu’s port city of Tuticorin, prompting the ruling AIADMK government to issue appeals for calm and a promise to take legal action against the plant. 9 people have died and more than 30 have been seriously injured in the firing. Death toll is likely to go up.

Thousands of local residents have been protesting for more than three months that the Sterlite copper smelting plant be shut down but complain that the state government had not responded to their demands. About 20,000 people gathered at the protest site today and stormed the district collector’s office, vandalising government property.

Senior Tamil Nadu minister Jayakumar said that the police didn’t have an option but to open fire since the protests had turned “extremely violent”. The police firing was unavoidable, he said.

MK Stalin of the opposition DMK blamed the state government for the violence, saying that people had been protesting peacefully for so long but the administration did not attempt to address the concerns of the people. The plant should be shut down, Mr Stalin said.

Actor-politician Kamal Haasan made a similar point, “Citizens are not criminals… They are the ones who lose their lives,” Mr Haasan, who had earlier participated in the peaceful protests against the plant, said. “It is the negligence of the government… The government ignored peaceful protests,” he said.