Tuticorin (TN): A man was killed in fresh police firing on anti-Sterlite plant agitators today, while some others were injured in clashes with security personnel in Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin town, a day after 10 people lost their lives in police action, officials said.
Enraged over yesterday's killings, protesters took to streets and showered stones and brickbats at police, prompting security personnel to open fire at Anna Nagar, they said. The body of the man killed in firing, and those injured have been rushed to a government hospital.
Locals have been agitating for over 100 days now demanding closure of the Vedanta group copper plant over pollution concerns.
The Tamil Nadu government has constituted an inquiry commission to look into the matter. The Commission of Inquiry, headed by Aruna Jagadeesan a retired judge of the Madras High Court, will probe the violence.
"The panel will cover the law and order incidents following the siege of the District Collectorate on May 22 by thousands of persons violating prohibitory orders," an official release said here. The Madras High Court today stayed a proposed expansion of the Sterlite copper smelter plant in Tuticorin.
Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) took suo motu cognisance of the violence and issued notices to chief secretary and the director general of police, calling for detailed reports in two weeks. Opposition leaders, including DMK working president M K Stalin and MDMK chief Vaiko visited the injured at a hospital and enquired about the treatment being provided to them.
The Opposition parties strongly condemned the police firing even as CPI(M) State Secretary K Balakrishnan and others were detained by the police after they tried to sit on a huger strike, seeking suspension of district officials responsible for the police firings.
The police, however, said the protestors did not disperse despite repeated warnings and pelted stones at the police personnel on 'bandobust' (vigil) duty at a locality. They said the protestors resorted to violence, leading to the police firing.
Two police vehicles were torched and people were baton-charged in a hospital premises. Two police buses parked in a residential neighbourhood were set on fire by unidentified persons. Some people who allegedly tried to forcibly enter the general hospital premises were baton-charged, the police said.
In view of the prevailing situation, entry to the hospital was strictly regulated and hundreds of people trying to visit the wounded in the facility were dispersed using mild force, they said. Police personnel from neighbouring districts have also been posted here to maintain law and order and police patrols have been intensified.
A bench comprising Justice M Sundar and Justice Anitha Sumanth of the Madras High Court stayed the expansion of the second unit of the plant, based on a petition filed by Fathima Babu, an environmental activist. The bench also directed the central government to submit within four months a report after holding a public hearing in the district to invite public opinion on the plan for expansion.
Sterlite had got consent to expand the second unit, as the existing one has remained shut for nearly two months after the Tamil Nadu pollution control board refused to renew its consent to operate (CTO) the unit.
NHRC, citing media reports, observed, "It appears that the authorities probably failed to foresee the tragic violence which took place".
Noting that the agitation against the alleged polluting unit was on for more than three months, the rights body said effective precautionary measures and deployment of adequate number of police personnel may have possibly averted the unfortunate incident.
"It also appears from several media reports, including those on TV news channels that the police resorted to firing on unarmed protesters without following the Standard Operating Procedure, which tantamount to serious violation of human rights and thus is a matter of concern for it," it said.
A protest was held on Tuesday at Tuticorin, about 600 km from capital city of Chennai, seeking permanent closure of Vedanta group's Sterlite Copper plant over alleged pollution issues. Eight men and two women were killed, besides dozens of men and women including police personnel were injured in the incident.