New Delhi, 23rd May, 2018
The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports that more than ten people were killed in police firing on anti-Sterlite protestors when their three month old agitation turned violent on its 100th day in Tuticorin district of Tamil Nadu on the 22nd May, 2018. Reportedly, the protesters attacked the Collectorate building and the police personnel posted there, leaving a few cops injured and some vehicles torched. Thereafter, the police retaliated with firing. The fleeing protesters were reportedly chased down and beaten up by the police.
The Commission has issued notices to the Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police, Tamil Nadu calling for detailed reports in the matter along with the status of the treatment being provided to the persons who have been injured in police firing. The response is expected within two weeks.
The Commission expects that investigation into the matter will be conducted as per guidelines laid down in its letter dated 12th May, 2010 addressed by the Chairperson, NHRC to the Chief Ministers of all States.
The Commission has also observed that going by the contents of the media reports, it appears that the authorities probably failed to foresee the tragic violence which took place. The agitation against the alleged polluting unit was on for the last more than three months. Keeping in view the simmering situation, effective precautionary measures and deployment of adequate number of police personnel may have possibly averted the unfortunate incident. It also appears from several media reports, including those on TV news channels that the police resorted to firing on unarmed protesters without following the Standard Operating Procedure, which tantamount to serious violation of human rights and thus is a matter of concern for it.
According to the media reports carried on the 23rd May, 2018, the agitation demanding closure of Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper plant started more than three months back. Thousands of protesters had, reportedly, gathered to mark the 100th day of the agitation at Kumarattiyapuram village on the outskirts of the city on the 22nd May, 2018. The district administration had granted permission only for staging a protest at the SAV School ground which was turned down by a majority of the protesters following which, the District Collector imposed regulatory orders u/s 144 Cr.P.C. and around 1500 police personnel were deployed to maintain the law and order.
It is mentioned in the news reports that the protest began at around 8.30 AM and the protesters marched towards the Collectorate. The police tried to stop them at several points but vastly outnumbered by the protesters, they were not able to control the mob.
Reportedly, angered by the firing that left eight protesters dead, the crowd blocked the vehicle of Tuticorin Superintendent of Police. The police force then opened fire and another person (Vinitha) died. As mentioned, the bodies of the dead are yet to be handed over to the families and condition of some of the injured persons is stated to be critical.
The news reports also reveals, that earlier several NGO’s had rallied people demanding the closure of the copper smelting unit which they said was polluting the environment and causing ailments in the neighbourhood. It is also mentioned that the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board is not renewing the license of the plant which is closed since March, 2018.
The Chief Minister of the State has, reportedly, announced Rs. 10 Lakh as compensation to the NOK of the deceased and Rs. 3 Lakh to the seriously injured apart from Rs. 1 Lakh to the persons with minor injuries. The State Government has also announced an inquiry into the matter to be conducted by a retired High Court judge.