Tamil Nadu Oppn Demands CM’s Resignation Over Sterlite Protests
With 11 confirmed deaths and scores critically injured, tension peaks in Thoothukudi.
With 11 confirmed deaths, including that of two women, and scores of others critically injured, tensions are running high in Thoothukudi. The months-long unrest and agitation against the Sterlite copper plant in the town took a violent turn on Tuesday, 22 May when police and protesters clashed.
Police resorted to lathi charge and firing tear gas shells to quell the protests. Visuals also showed protesters pelting stones at the police, with a group of demonstrators going on to topple a police van. Vehicles were torched and the Collectorate was also ransacked by protesters.
Following these clashes, several prominent figures in Tamil Nadu took to social media demanding answers from the government for the indiscriminate firing and attacks on the protestors. Some even called for the shutdown of the copper plant.
Leader of Opposition and DMK working president MK Stalin confirmed that he had cancelled his trip to Bengaluru to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Karnataka CM-designate HD Kumaraswamy and instead, would be heading to Thoothukudi.
"CM Edappadi Palaniswamy should have immediately invited those who have been protesting for a long time. The CM who is living in the dream world of power had no eyes for the protestors and had decided he wouldn't meet any of them," read a statement by Stalin.
He also added that, "An investigation commission under the High Court should be set up regarding the police firing” and that the families of those who lost their lives should be given Rs 1 crore compensation.
Speaking to the media, Makkal Neethi Maiyam chief Kamal Haasan said, "It is not enough if we just fire one officer of a high rank who only did his duty or did what he was asked to do. Those who could have averted this tragedy didn't. They are answerable," he said.
Actor-turned-politician Rajinikanth also hit out at the Tamil Nadu government. Taking to Twitter, he said, “TN government’s inaction is responsible for the violence in Thoothukudi. TN govt should take responsibility for the loss of life and violence in Thoothukudi.”
People have been protesting against Sterlite for a long time. It’s the state government’s duty to protect law and order. There should be no harm to the public. The Tamil Nadu government should intervene and take a decision regarding the Sterlite company that people do not like.V Narayanaswamy, Chief Minister, Puducherry
K Balakrishnan, state Secretary of the CPI(M) said, "I insist that the Edappadi government resign with immediate effect. We are on our way to Thoothukudi. Together with other democratic forces, we will conduct a strong protest against the Government."
MDMK chief Vaiko said, "The villagers there have been peacefully protesting for over 80 days. Sterlite has to be shut down. It has to be eliminated. Till such time, our protest will not stop. Today, the police department was set on us. In the name of protection, the government and Sterlite got together and snatched away our democratic freedoms. They have attacked us in an authoritarian manner and injured the protesters. Many have been injured. The use of tear gas, bullets show that this is an anti-democratic government. This authoritarianism cannot control the protests."
Kollywood actor, Nadigar Sangam secretary and Producers’ Council President Vishal tweeted, “My deepest condolences. The protest is done for a social cause not for personal goals. If 50,000 people are protesting against Sterlite, it means there is unity among people to stop something which is against the welfare of the people of Tuticorin. Dear Prime Minsiter, please break your silence at least now. As BJP says, Protest is a form of Democracy, why can't people do the same. Govt is supposed to be ‘For The People’ & not otherwise (sic)."
Reacting to the clash, Congress President Rahul Gandhi termed what was witnessed in Thoothukudi as 'state sponsored terrorism.' He tweeted, "The gunning down by the police of 9 people in the #SterliteProtest in Tamil Nadu, is a brutal example of state sponsored terrorism. These citizens were murdered for protesting against injustice. My thoughts & prayers are with the families of these martyrs and the injured."
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Edappadi Palaniswami announced a compensation for those affected by the protests. The government will give Rs 10 lakhs and a job for family members of the deceased, Rs 3 lakhs for victims who are injured.
(The story has been published in an arrangement with The News Minute)
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