Chennai: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has begun its probe related to the police firing during the protests against Vedanta’s Sterlite Industries in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi in May this year, which led to the killing of 13 people. The CBI’s investigation comes just days after an autopsy report of the victims revealed that out of the 13 who were killed, 12 were hit by bullets either in their head or chest when police opened fire on demonstrators who were protesting against Vedanta’s copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi.
Documents containing information about the 15 weapons used by the police for firing and details of who issued the firing orders have been collected, according news agency ANI. Apart from examining the officials of the Tamil Nadu police and revenue department, the CBI has also started recording statements of the families of the victims.
Last month, the CBI had registered a case against the police, revenue department officials and others, based on a complaint lodged by K.S. Arjunan, Thoothukudi district secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
The CBI in its First Information Report (FIR) filed a case on charges of “robbery, dacoity, falsification of evidence and disobeying law" in connection with anti-Sterlite protests and the subsequent firing on 22-23 May that left 13 people dead and over hundreds injured.
The people of the port town, protesting against Sterlite Industries for over two decades, had intensified their agitation earlier this year, when the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) issued ‘consent to establish’ licences to the copper smelting unit for its expansion plans that would double Sterlite’s production to 800,000 metric tonnes per annum. On 22 May, as thousands marched towards the district collector’s office demanding the closure of the copper smelting unit, the protest turned violent and police opened fire.
Less than a week after the police firing, the Tamil Nadu government had ordered closure of the copper smelting unit.
In August, the Madras High Court had directed that all FIRs registered in connection with the anti-Sterlite protests be transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Earlier this month, the National Green Tribunal ordered the reopening of Sterlite’s copper plant months after the smelter was ordered shut by the Tamil Nadu government over alleged pollution, leading to violent protests.