Reports Thousands of local residents have been protesting for more than three months that the Sterlite copper smelting plant be shut down but complain that the state government had not responded to their demands.
20,000 gathered at protest site, stormed district collector's office
Protesters are demanding closure of copper smelting plant in Tuticorin
Police firing was unavoidable, said senior Tamil Nadu minister Jayakumar
Police opened fire on protesters who went on a rampage today demanding closure of a copper smelting plant in Tamil Nadu's port city of Tuticorin, prompting the ruling AIADMK government to issue appeals for calm and a promise to take legal action against the plant. A statement by the state government did not specify the casualties in the clashes and senior police officers claimed that they could not confirm the number of deaths. Senior Tamil Nadu minister D Jayakumar, however, appeared to confirm that there were deaths when he spoke about compensation for the injured and those "shot dead". Local media reports say at least nine people had died in today's protests. Thousands of local residents have been protesting for more than three months against the Sterlite copper smelting plant and its reported expansion but complained that the state government had not responded to their demands. They had intensified protests demanding closure of the plant after reports came in that the group was seeking licence for expansion as the initial 25 year licence comes to an end
Initial pushing and shoving soon led to violent clashes, after agitated locals began hurling stones at police and overturned a vehicle. Security personnel used batons and burst teargas shells to break up the protest. 9 people were killed and over 20 were injured as the violence spiraled. More than 2,000 police personnel from the southern districts of Madurai, Ramanathapuram, Theni, Dindigul have been deployed to Tuticorin to restore order. The government, underlining its pro-people commitment in the Sterlite issue, assured the public that further legal action would be taken, "respecting" their feelings. "The Tamil Nadu government requests the people to accept this (assurance) and maintain peace," said an official statement. The district has been witnessing several protests by locals and others against the Sterlite Copper plant and its proposed expansion.