Sterlite protests: Opposition calls for strike in Tamil Nadu today
Shops remain shut, public transport suspended in Thoothukudi as death toll hits 13
Chennai: For the third day, Section 144 remained in place, shops shut and public transport suspended in Thoothukudi, where police firing on protesters has killed 13 people. A total of 102 people were injured in the incident on the coastal town in Tamil Nadu.
Protests were reported from across the state and Puducherry, and security was tightened at Marina in Chennai, were several organisations and outfits had planned to conduct demonstrations.
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and other opposition parties have called for a complete shutdown in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry on Friday. Earlier in the day, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board ordered disconnection of the power supply to Sterlite Industries Ltd on account of non-compliance of rules.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh said in Delhi has his ministry has sought a report on the incident. “I’m deeply pained at the loss of lives during the agitation at Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu. The home ministry has taken cognisance of the situation and sought a report on the incident and the prevailing situation from the state government. My thoughts are with the bereaved families. I also pray for the speedy recovery of the injured. I appeal to the people in Tuticorin to remain calm and maintain peace in the region.
The home ministry also asked the state government to provide a detailed report on the Sterlite plant and the sequence of events that led to the deaths on 22 May.
Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami told reporters in Chennai, “Some anti-social elements intruded into the agitation on 22 May and attacked the police, torched the police vehicles. Under tense situation, police resorted to firing and the firing was not pre-planned.”
When asked who gave the orders for police firing, Palaniswami said: “When someone hits you, you naturally tend to defend yourselves; so on such situations, no one acts in a pre-planned manner.”
“We are working towards the return of normalcy and are expecting the situation to get better by tomorrow,” said the new district collector Sandeep Nanduri, who took charge on Thursday. “After assessing the situation tomorrow, we will then decide on operating the buses across the town”
Regarding the demand for the closure of the Sterlite plant, he said: “The government is for its closure and that is the reason for suspending the power supply and fighting the legal battle.”
He said there has been property damage worth Rs29 lakh since Tuesday and estimated losses over a crore rupees from 98 vehicles that were burnt.
In Chennai, opposition leader and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) working president M.K Stalin and party functionaries along with Congress MLAs, who staged a demonstration in front of CM’s office at the Secretariat were detained.
Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commission filed a petition in the Delhi high court to order an inquiry into the police killings in Thoothukudi. This plea will be heard on Friday by the court.
On Wednesday night, the Tamil Nadu state government transferred the Thoothukudi Superintendent of Police and district collector. Murali Ramba replaced P. Mahendran as the superintendent of police, Nanduri was named the district collector, replacing N. Venkatesh. A day earlier, police firing resulted in several deaths after a three-month-long protest against alleged pollution caused by the smelter ended in violence.
Shaswati Das in New Delhi contributed to this story.
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