Ten people were killed on Tuesday in police firing in the southern Indian port city of Thoothukudi (formerly called Tuticorin) after hundreds of protesters marched towards Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper smelter plant demanding its immediate closure.
The protest turned violent on its 100th day with no assurance coming from the federal or state government.
It is alleged that the copper smelter plant, which was opened in 1996 in south Tamil Nadu, had been polluting air, water and land resulting in rise of diseases like cancer.
When people moved the Supreme Court against the company, it imposed a fine on the firm and allowed it to continue functioning.
The latest round of protests began after the government gave the company the go-ahead for its expansion plan. The protesters had been demanding the intervention of federal and state governments for the past hundred days.
Anticipating trouble, the district collector had on Tuesday imposed an order banning assembly of five or more persons, marches, meetings, entry of vehicles and carrying of flags, sticks and weapons in Thoothukudi South.
The protesters defied this order and marched towards the collectorate where they toppled a police van before torching many other parked vehicles including six four-wheelers belonging to the revenue department. They also damaged window panes of government buildings.
Although some 2,500 police personnel were deployed, the protesters far outnumbered them.
State Chief Minister EK Palaniswami ordered an investigation into the violence that claimed 10 lives. Palaniswami announced a compensation of $14,668 each to the families of those killed, $4,400 to those seriously injured, and $1,466 to those who suffered minor injuries.
He also promised government jobs for one family member of each of those who lost their lives in accordance with their qualifications.