NCHRO Statement on the Police Firing on the Protesters Against Sterlite Plant in Tuticorin
The people’s protest against the Sterlite copper smelter unit in the port town Tuticorin on Tuesday was handled in the most inhuman way by the Tamilnadu police. Till now the police firing has claimed at least twelve lives. More than sixty five people with serious bullet injuries are now treated in various hospitals in the town. The local people say that more number of people should have been killed since the whereabouts of many persons are not known for the past two days. High hit efficient sniper guns utilized in wars to kill the enemies were used by the police without following any protocols prescribed in the Tamilnadu Police Standing Order and the Police Training Manual. Most of the people killed are shot above their waists. A seventeen year old school girl has died with a bullet injury in her mouth. The police said that they started firing the people after they set fire to a building in the collector’s office. But they are not able to explain how the people with some combustible material in their hands were able to enter into the collectorate which was protected with three tier security.
The pollution causing smelter, which can produce 400,000 tonnes of copper cathode a year, is run by Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper unit controlled by Vedanta Ltd. The unit now plans to double the production capacity of the smelter to 800,000 tonnes per year. Now the plant has been shut since March 27 as the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board rejected Vedanta’s license to operate the smelter since the company had not complied with environmental laws. Sterlite has challenged it in the court. This is not the first time the plant has shut down. It remained shut for weeks in 2013 due to a case at the National Green Tribunal.
The local people demand the permanent closure of the smelter unit since the pollutants released by the unit spoil the environment and causes many diseases including cancer. The present struggle is going on for the past hundred days. On the hundredth day they announced a march towards the collector’s office for which the permission was not granted and prohibitory order under rule 144 had been declared. However the people decided to conduct the program and get arrested wherever they were stopped.
The entire happenings on May 22, including the brutal killing of more than twelve people, are not just due to the mishandling of the situation by the police. We strongly believe that this is a pre-planned murder, since both the central and state governments wanted to teach a lesson to the people that hear afterwards any such protests against corporate endeavors would be dealt only like this. Now, the corporate friendly Modi government had declared that it is ready to send central forces to ‘help’ the Tamilnadu government.
The NCHRO demands that a judicial enquiry by a sitting high court judge from a neighboring state should be ordered immediately. We don’t believe in the enquiry by the retired judge ordered by the Tamilnadu Government.
The commission should enquire into i) whether necessary warnings were given and due police rules are followed before firing is started ii) why most of the people killed were shot in the upper portions of their body. iii) How in a random shooting most of the people killed were from a particular organisation.
If it is found that the police officers started firing the people without following the protocol, they should be suspended and criminal proceedings should be initiated against them.
Now the district police chief and the collector are transferred. We demand that they should be suspended and a departmental enquiry should be initiated.
All the people arrested should be released immediately and all the charges against them should be withdrawn.
A compensation of rupees one crore should be given to the families of each person killed in the shooting. A permanent government job should be given to one person from each family.
A compensation of rupees ten lakhs should be given to each injured in the shooting and the total bill for their complete treatment should be paid by the government.
The Sterlite unit in Tuticorin should be immediately closed permanently.
Prof. A. Marx
Mobile: 94441 20582
24th May 2018