Police in south India accused of mass murder after shooting dead protesters

SIPCOT cited the people'e agitation and pollution as the reason behind cancellation of the land allotment

Large-scale violence on May 12 during the mass protest against the Sterlite copper plant in Tuticorin and subsequent police firing had led to the death of 12 persons and the next day saw one more youth succumbing to injuries sustained in police firing.

Sterlite Copper, a business unit of Vedanta, a United Kingdom-based multinational mining and metals conglomerate, set up the copper smelting plant in 1996. Protesters turned violent on May 22, the 100th day of their stir, and 13 people were killed in police action against them last Tuesday and Wednesday.

The order, citing a provision of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, stated that the government, endorsing the closure direction of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), directed the pollution control board to seal the unit and close the plant permanently.

However no one had been working at the Sterlite Copper subsidiary of Vedanta Resources for nearly two months.

The local residents are protesting the ₹3,500 crore expansion of Sterlite Industries (India), which has toxified the groundwater and has caused many respiratory illnesses including cancer among the inhabitants.

Plans to double its capacity are also under threat after a local court delivered an interim order staying the expansion until a further hearing, to be held by September 23, Vedanta said Wednesday. The deputy CM spoke to reporters in Thoothukudi and said that compensation to the injured were being paid.

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The state government and the district administration should also be blamed for failing to appreciate the depth of resentment among the people of Tuticorin to Sterlite's illegal and polluting operations and the betrayal by the state of its people.

"We are further studying the order and shall keep the stock exchanges updated on any developments", Vedanta said in a filing to the exchanges late in the evening.

The Tamil Nadu government has appointed an inquiry commissioned headed by retired judge Aruna Jagadeesan to investigate the violence, which erupted when over 20,000 protesters marched towards the District Collectorate despite Section 144 being in force. Rahul Gandhi, leader of the opposition Congress party, said it was "state-sponsored terrorism". "We will take all possible steps to ensure that the Sterlite copper plant is shut down in Tuticorin", he said.

State Minister D. Jayakumar said in a televised address that it had been "unavoidable" for police to fire on protesters.

The PIL said the company obtained environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests for the second copper smelter plant in 2009.

Several cases have been filed against the plant since it started in 1996, and India's top court in 2013 fined it about $18 million for breaking environmental laws.

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