Officers of the rank of deputy tehsildars ordered the police to open fire at protestors in Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu on May 22 and May 23, according to the police complaints that have been filed. Thirteen people agitating against the expansion of the Vedanta Group’s Sterlite Copper plant in the coastal town were killed in the police firing by security personnel. The police had fired at protestors when they were agitating against the expansion of the Vedanta Group’s Sterlite Copper plant in the coastal town.

First Information Reports were filed at three police stations – Sipcot, Thoothukudi North and Thoothukudi South – by deputy tehsildars, The New Indian Express reported.

In his complaint at Sipcot police station, Special Deputy Tehsildar (Election) P Sekar said he ordered police to open fire against the protestors after all measures to control them failed, IANS reported. Based on the complaint, police filed a case against 400 people.

In the complaint at Thoothukudi North police station, Zonal Deputy Tehsildar M Kannan said he had ordered the police firing at Threspuram. Several protestors were arrested based on the complaint. The third FIR filed showed Deputy Tahsildar (Excise) Chandran had ordered the firing by police in Anna Nagar on May 23.

The three FIRs blamed the protestors for the violence and said it forced officials to issue orders to fire at them, The Hindu reported. Sekar’s FIR at Sipcot police station alleged that protestors hurled petrol bombs, burnt vehicles and attacked security personnel with an “intention to murder”. He said 10,000 protestors had marched to the collectorate with “deadly weapons” on May 22.

Meanwhile, Director General of Police TK Rajendran has ordered that the case related to the police firing be transferred to the Crime Investigation Department, ANI reported.

On Sunday, authorities lifted the prohibitory orders imposed in Thoothukudi under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami announced that financial aid to the families of the deceased would be increased from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 20 lakh.

State’s response

The chief minister had defended the police action, blaming “certain political parties, non-governmental organisations and anti-social elements” for the violence in Thoothukudi. “If someone is attacked, the natural course would be to defend and safeguard themselves,” he had said. “This is what has been done by the police in response.”

The state government on Monday ordered that the Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi district be permanently shut down. The State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu on Tuesday cancelled the land alloted to Vedanta Resources for the proposed expansion of the plant, The Times of India reported. The land price collected for the land allotment will be refunded, it added.