Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Thursday blamed “certain political parties, non-governmental organisations and anti-social elements” for the violence in Thoothukudi, and said they had taken the protestors down the wrong path, ANI reported. “If someone is attacked, the natural course would be to defend and safeguard themselves,” he said. “This is what has been done by the police in response.”
The statement came soon after Dravida Munnetra Kazagham Working President MK Stalin was evicted from Palaniswami’s office. The state police detained him shortly after he and other party leaders staged a protest outside the Tamil Nadu secretariat against the killings during a demonstration against Sterlite Copper’s smelter in Thoothukudi district.
The police said several other party members were detained as well, ANI reported. Opposition parties in the state, including the DMK, the Congress and Left parties, have called for a dawn-to-dusk shutdown on Friday to condemn the police action against protestors, PTI reported. The DMK said it would also demand the closure of the copper smelting plant.
The number of protestors who died in police firing on Tuesday and Wednesday during an agitation against the smelter in Thoothukudi rose to 13 while 70 injured people are undergoing treatment for injuries. For more than two decades, activists in Thoothukudi have accused Sterlite of contaminating the region’s air and water resources, causing breathing disorders, skin diseases, heart conditions and cancer. Since February, there have been protests in Thoothukudi where Sterlite runs the copper smelter with the capacity to produce 4.38 lakh tonnes of copper anodes per annum, or 1,200 tonnes per day.
On Wednesday, the Tamil Nadu government suspended internet services in Thoothukudi, Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli districts for five days. Security forces have been deployed in large numbers in the sensitive areas.
On Thursday, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board cut power supply to the smelter. In an order on Wednesday, the board said it had found the unit was “carrying out activities to resume production” despite being told not to do so until its licence to operate is renewed.
Congress attacks PM Modi
Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi questioned why Prime Minister Narendra Modi was silent on the violence in Thoothukudi. “The prime minister has free time to accept a challenge and throw counter challenges but has no time to speak about challenges of violence and rising fuel prices,” he said, according to News18. Singhvi was referring to the government’s fitness challenge.
He further questioned if the Tamil Nadu chief minister was “fit to continue” in his post.