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India: Civil society condemns killing by Tamil Nadu police of unarmed demonstrators against severely polluting and environmentally hazardous Sterlite copper smelting plant

Thursday 24 May 2018, by siawi3

Source: PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES

23rd May, 2018

PUCL Condemns the TN Government and Police for the

Jalianwala Bagh style Killing of Innocent People in Tuticorin!

PUCL strongly condemns the cold blooded and targeted killing by Tamil Nadu police of over 13 persons on Tuesday, 22nd May, 2018 in Tuticorin (aka Thoothukudi) in South Tamil Nadu. Many of those killed were part of a continuing unarmed, democratic protest by thousands of local people in and around the Sterlite plant on the outskirts of Tuticorin town, demanding the closure of the severely polluting and environmentally hazardous Sterlite copper smelting plant, part of the Vedanta group, and one of the largest such plants in the world.

What is especially deplorable is the tactics adopted by the Tamil Nadu police and the Government leading to the unconscionable and unconstitutional firing aimed to kill protestors. It was public knowledge that the Anti-Sterlite Movement, spearheading the People’s campaign against the Sterlite copper plant, had called upon people to gather on 22nd May, the 100th day of the protests, and march to the Tuticorin Collector’s Office demanding immediate closure of all construction activities undertaken to expand the Sterlite Plant and to close down the plant itself. Knowing fully well that local sentiments throughout the District, and not just Tuticorin town itself, was against the continuation of the Sterlite plant, the District Administration and the Police, ought to have taken steps to defuse the situation by engaging in discussions and dialogues with the protesting group well in advance of the 22nd; in any case, on 22nd May, they could have invited a small representative gathering of leaders to meet the District Collector to submit their representation.

What however occurred on 22nd May, 2018, was a complete travesty of constitutional rule and a total breakdown of the rule of law and orderly governance. The authorities allowed the gathering of thousands of people outside the Collector’s Office. It is reported that the police resorted to severe and unprovoked lathi charge on the unarmed gathering without giving any prior warning. This is said to have provoked reaction from some sections of the gathering resulting in stone throwing. Without giving the statutory warning of the possibility of shooting, and violating the Police Standing Orders and Guidelines to handle situations of mob agitations, the Police instead fired into the crowd, aiming to kill. The guidelines state that the police should first shoot warning shots in the air, and then only below the knees, were brazenly flouted.

Numerous video recordings as also eye witness accounts state that the Police used professional Police Sharpshooters, standing atop police vehicles, in mufti, to shoot directly at people leading the march, aiming to kill them. This much is also made clear by the fact that most of those killed seemed to have bullet wounds in the top torso or part of the body above the waist. This is not only atrocious but also a matter of great concern that the TN Police target killing of unarmed, peacefully agitating protestors. The Tamil Nadu Police could not have committed such acts without the tacit or unspoken permission from the TN State Government.

The police shooting reminds us of the Jalianwala Bagh massacre during the independence struggle. It’s a shame that in independent India too such police killings is allowed to take place.

What concerns us greatly is that the people say that they heard more than 40 to 50 rounds of gunfire rained upon them by the Police. Yet the number of dead is only 13. Our worry is if there are still more local people seriously injured who are hiding because of fear of police brutality and reprisal. It s important that the Administration take the assistance of credible eminent people who enjoy the confidence of local people to reach out with the offer of assistance and help.

PUCL is constrained to point out certain disquieting trends in the manner by which the present AIADMK Government is handling situations of mass protests. As happened in the Marina protests of January 2016 or the Neduvasal and Kadiramangalam agitations against Methane extraction in the Pudukottai and Thanjavur area, the police this time too allowed for a large number of people to gather together before launching a major unprovoked attack on unarmed protesting people, with the sole aim of creating such mass fear through injuries and deaths, that it would be a lesson to any other group daring to protest against the government in the future. Very clearly the Political Executive / State, alongwith the Administration and Police, have decided that they are not bound by Constitutional niceties, fundamental rights principles, Rule of Law guidelines and that they can and will break the law with impunity. After all, in numerous occasions before the police and state authorities have gotten away with brazenly breaking the law with impunity, that they need not fear yet another occasion when they will also similarly escape the clutches of the law. It is important that the police and other officials are made accountable to the law.

What concerns us more is that the Police have allegedly fired rubber bullets at groups of family members today, 23rd May, 2018, who had come to the Government Hospital to collect the bodies of their family members killed in the police firing. We condemn the firing and the insensitive response of the officials to the situation of grim tragedy suffered by local people.

PUCL demands that the Government give strict orders to the police and administration to stop taking storm arm actions against local people. PUCL also demands that all those police and administration officials present in the scene of the firing on 22nd May, 2018 be identified and suspended forthwith, pending police investigation into their role. The Government should take action not merely against the subordinate police and revenue officials but against the entire chain of command, responsible for overseeing the entire incident.

The PUCL calls upon concerned citizens and human rights minded groups throughout India to raise their voices against the abuse of law and killing in cold blood of over 13 citizens by the TN Police. PUCL also calls upon other citizens and human rights groups to extend solidarity with the Anti-Sterlite protestors of Tuticorin and support them in all ways including by solidarity visits to Tuticorin to study for themselves what happened.

PUCL would like to reiterate that it is only through an enlightened and vigilant citizenry that we can safeguard our rights and seek accountability from the state and its officials.

In this very grim scenario of the loss of over 13 lives in police firing on 22nd May, it is interesting to note that a Division Bench of the Madras High Court has granted Interim Orders staying further construction of the expansion plant of Sterlite Industries in Tuticorin, which has been a bone of contention and which sparked off the current protest. This timely intervention by the Judiciary provides a semblance of hope and is a measure of reassurance to the people of Tuticorin that justice will prevail in the end!

Signed/-

Mr. Ravi Kiran Jain, Dr. V. Suresh,

National President, PUCL National General Secretary, PUCL

°°°

Source: http://sacw.net/article13773.html

India: Killing & violence on Anti-Sterilite Protestors - Statements by NAPM and other concerned citizens + news report

23 May 2018

Enmasse killing & violence on Anti-Sterilite Protestors Outrageous & Barbaric: Blot on Democracy: Exposes Cruel Face of Corporate StateText of Statement by NAPM
Citizens’ Statement on Police Violence Against Sterlite Protestors in Thoothukudi [Tamil Nadu, India]

1.

NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF PEOPLE’S MOVEMENTS

National Office: 6/6, Jangpura B, New Delhi – 110 014
Phone:011 24374535 | 9971058735
E-mail:napmindia[at]gmail.com | Web:www.napm-india.org

Enmasse killing & violence on Anti-Sterilite Protestors Outrageous & Barbaric: Blot on Democracy: Exposes Cruel Face of Corporate State

NAPM demands Court-monitored Judicial Inquiry by Retired Apex Court Judge & action against senior political leaders, officials responsible for the massacre

GoTN must ensure permanent shut down of Old and Proposed Units of Sterilite

23rd May, 2018: National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) strongly condemns the brutal gunning down of over 11 citizens including a 17 year old girl and violence on more than 60 persons by the Tamil Nadu Police, during the mass and largely peaceful protests against the Sterilite Copper Plant of Vedanta Pvt. Ltd. in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu. It is know that the people of Thoothukudi have been protesting against the pollution of ground water and air by the copper smelter for years. This current phase of protest started in early march when the expansion of Sterlite plant to double capacity was announced. On the 100th day of protest i.e. 22nd May, against the Sterlite copper unit Ltd, thousands of people of Thoothukudi took out a pre-announced march towards the Collectorate. The march was to reiterate their demand to shut down the existing copper smelter, causing severe pollution and health hazards. Over 10,000 people – men, women and children marched to meet the collector.

The Tamil Nadu police lathi charged, shot with tear gas and smoke bombs at the protesters without provocation. When the people ran towards the collectorate, during which time certain government vehicles were reportedly torched, the police opened fire killing over 10 people and injuring several others. Over 3,000 police personal including commandos with self-loaded rifles were deployed to bring ‘situation under control’. Reports from the ground account for police chasing and unprovoked shooting at men and women and into fishing hamlets. There are videos of police personal shooting from a safe distance atop vehicles and armed with lathi entering hospital and beating up the injured!!! This is nothing but a barbaric assault on the democratic rights of the people.

Protests against Sterlite have been going on for over two decades. On March 24th 2018 a similar protest was called, participated by tens of thousands of people with no untoward incident. This forced the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and the Rural Development Officer (RDO), to take groundwater samples from 7 locations within Sterlite factory premises and 8 from villages around the factory. The results revealed widespread and high levels of contamination in all 15 groundwater sources. Levels of the neurotoxin heavy metal lead, which is particularly toxic to children, were found to be between 4 and 55 times higher than levels considered safe for drinking water. The company has been shut down many a times through court orders for violation of environmental safeguards, since 1998. At least 15 workers have died and many have been injured due to hazardous working conditions.

The responsibility of yesterday’s shooting lies with not just the police and the district administration, but the Government of Tamil Nadu, Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board. For, yesterday was a bloody culmination of over two decades of blatant disregard for the lives and well-being of the people and protecting corporate interest. One needs to remember that in 1992, Sterlite was allotted land in Maharashtra, but was shifted to Tamil Nadu due to massive protest by the people of Ratnagiri. The Genesis and the growth of Strelite in Tamil Nadu is an example of how the deep crony capitalism is entrenched in our system. The project received environmental clearance in January 1995, even before the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA). There have been periodical complains made to TNPCB of health issues caused gas leak, draining toxic waste along with rainwater, polluting the groundwater, but each time Sterlite got a clean chit. In 2013, the Supreme Court on hearing the people of Thoothukudi, gave a severe indictment to the company, but refused to shut it down.

We have seen such tactics before and will not be fooled. We saw similar brute force and false charges used to curb the Koodankulam anti-nuclear protests. Similarly the same brutality was shown in curbing the Jallikattu movement. It is the sad state of affairs that the entire state machinery is deployed to defend the profit of a private corporate that has a chequered history in the country, be in Orissa, Chhattisgarh or elsewhere. But just like many other states of the country, Tamil Nadu too has been simmering with protests against corporate loot and state terror, in order to protect corporate interests.

NAPM stands in full solidarity with the fighting masses of Thoothukudi and extends our deepest condolences to the families who have lost their dear ones, all activists and leaders of the movement, in their own right. We demand the immediate shutting of the Sterilite copper smelter and its expansion. Development that does not account for the wellbeing of the people is nothing but destruction and has to be fought tooth and nail.

We call upon the Govt. of TN to honour the interim order of the Madres High Court issued today to stall all works of the Plant and conduct a public hearing. The authorities must ensure no further intimidation, harassment and arrests of the already battered people. GoTN must ensure immediate disbursement of at least Rs. 1 crore compensation to the families of each of the deceased persons, Rs. 50 lakhs to each of the severely injured persons and a permanent government job to at least one member in the family of each of the deceased.

Given the scale and seriousness of the crime involved, a time bound, Court-monitored Judicial Inquiry by a Retired Supreme Court Judge to investigate the entire incident and fix liability must be initiated at the earliest. FIR under Section 302 IPC must be registered against the senior officials as well as political leaders, without whose facilitation and orders, the planning and executed these shootings and killings would not have happened.

The Government of Tamil Nadu has lost its ethical right to govern the state and at the bare minimum must ensure the stepping down of senior ministers who could have acted prudently and thwarted this tragedy, but did not.

Endorsed By:

Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)

Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Shankar Singh, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, NAPM

Prafulla Samantara, Lok Shakti Abhiyan; Lingraj Azad, Samajwadi Jan Parishad & Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, NAPM Odisha

Dr.Sunilam, Adv. Aradhna Bhargava, KisanSangharshSamiti, Rajkumar Sinha, Bargi Baandh Visthapit evam Prabhavit Sangh, NAPM, Madhya Pradesh

P. Chennaiah, Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union-APVVU, Ramakrishnam Raju, United Forum for RTI and NAPM, Meera Sanghamitra, Rajesh Serupally, NAPM Telangana - Andhra Pradesh

Dr Binayak Sen, Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL); GautamBandopadhyay, Nadi Ghati Morcha;KaladasDahariya, RELAA, NAPM Chhattisgarh

Kavita Srivastava, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL); Kailash Meena, NAPM Rajasthan

Sandeep Pandey, Socialist Party;Richa Singh, Sangatin;ArundhatiDhuru, Manesh Gupta, NAPM, Uttar Pradesh

Gabriele Dietrich, Penn Urimay Iyakkam, Madurai; Geetha Ramakrishnan, Unorganised Sector Workers Federation; Arul Doss, NAPM Tamil Nadu

Sister Celia, Domestic Workers Union; Maj Gen (Retd) S.G.Vombatkere, NAPM, Karnataka

Vilayodi Venugopal, CR Neelakandan, Prof. Kusumam Joseph, NAPM, Kerala

Anand Mazgaonkar, Swati Desai, Krishnakant, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, NAPM Gujarat

Vimal Bhai, Matu Jan sangathan; Jabar Singh, NAPM, Uttarakhand

Dayamani Barla, Aadivasi-MoolnivasiAstivtva Raksha Samiti; Basant Kumar Hetamsaria and Ashok Verma, NAPM Jharkhand

Samar Bagchi, AmitavaMitra, NAPM West Bengal

Suniti SR, SuhasKolhekar, Prasad Bagwe, &Bilal Khan, GharBachaoGharBanaoAndolan, Mumbai NAPMMaharashtra

Anjali Bharadwaj, National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), NAPM

Faisal Khan, KhudaiKhidmatgar; J S Walia, NAPM Haryana

Guruwant Singh, NAPM Punjab

Kamayani Swami, Ashish Ranjan, Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan; MahendraYadav, KosiNavnirmanManch; Sister Dorothy, Ujjawal Chaubey, NAPM Bihar, Bhupender Singh Rawat, Jan Sangharsh Vahini; Sunita Rani, Domestic Workers Union; Rajendra Ravi, Nanhu Prasad, Madhuresh Kumar, Amit Kumar, Himshi Singh, Uma, NAPM, Delhi

o o o

2.

Citizens’ Statement on Police Violence Against Sterlite Protestors in Thoothukudi [Tamil Nadu, India]

Police violence in Thoothukudi has left at least 10 shot dead and hundreds injured. Not only was this tragedy totally avoidable, it appears that the Police have even given hot pursuit and shot at women and others in fishing hamlets like Theresepuram. The sheer brutality of the police action reminds one of the manner in which the Jallikattu protests were dealt with.

The Government of Tamil Nadu, Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and the Thoothukudi District Administration are squarely responsible for allowing the situation to get to this unfortunate state by allowing Vedanta Sterlite to violate environmental and land use planning laws with impunity for over two decades.

The people who died are just ordinary people who have been forced to take to the streets, and march to the Collectorate to demand action from an administration that has syste matically and for decades failed to enforce the law on Sterlite. The District Collector, the chairperson and member secretary of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, the Secretaries holding the environment portfolios in the central and state governments, the ministers of environment at the state and centre, and the chief minister of Tamil Nadu need to account for their inaction in the face of overwhelming evidence of illegalities, environmental harm and damage to public health.

This is not the first time that Sterlite’s pollution and the impunity it enjoys has been the cause of public anger in Thoothukudi. In 2013, the Supreme Court of India curiously found the company guilty of misrepresentation, unlicensed operation and polluting the environment, but allowed the company to operate after paying a small fine as it felt Ind ia needed the copper.

The company failed to reform its ways even after this narrow judicial escape. The regulators — TNPCB and Ministry of Environment and Forests — too continued their cosy relationship with Sterlite ignoring blatant violations of statutory conditions and clear indications of pollution. It is a known fact that the state and central governments have allowed Sterlite to operate with lower-than-required chimney stacks, thereby exposing lakhs of residents to higher levels of toxic pollutants.

It has ignored the tentative findings of a government medical college’s health study that reported higher incidence of certain health problems among the village rs living around the factory.

Let us not forget that for the second time in two months more than a lakh residents of this coastal town have taken to the streets with one clear demand: Immediate and Complete Shutdown of Sterlite. The state government and the district administration should also be blamed for failing to appreciate the depth of resentment among the people of Thoothukudi to Sterlite’s illegal and polluting operations and the betrayal by the State of its people.

The Government of Tamil Nadu has lost its moral right to govern, and should at the very least ensure that the senior ministers who failed to read the signs properly and take preventive action res ign. But before anything else, the Government of Tamil Nadu should have the decency to declare an end to the toxic terrorism unleashed by Sterlite and permanently close down the polluting unit.

Signed:

Henri Tiphagne, Advocate & National Working Secretary, Human Rights Defenders’ Alert – India ( HRDA), Executive Director, People’s Watch
Justice D Hariparanthaman (Retd.)
MG Devasahayam, IAS (Retd.)
Vetri Maaran, Filmmaker
Charu Govindan, Voices of People
Dr. V Vasanthi Devi, Former Vice-Chancellor, Manormanium Sundaranar University
Chandra Mohan, Arappor Iyakkam
G Sundarrajan, Poovulagin Nanbargal
Nityanand Jayarama n, Writer and Social Activist
V. Geetha, Writer and Publisher, Chennai
Prema Revathi, Writer, Publisher and Actor, Chennai
Piyush Manush, Salem Citizen’s Forum
A Mangai, Professor
V Arasu, Professor
R Rathindran Prasad, Filmmaker
Divya Bharathi, Filmmaker
Sofia Ashraf, Writer and Rapper
Kavitha Muralidharan, Journalist, Chennai
Sujata Mody, President, Penn Thozhilalargal Sangam
M. Subbu, Tamil Maanila Kattida Thozhilalar Sangam (TMKTS)
Dr. Rakhal Gaitonde, Public Health Researcher
Swarna Rajagopalan, Gender Equality Activist
Nadika Nadja, Writer, Chennai
L Ramakrishnan, Queer & Women’s Rights activist
Ashley Tellis, LGBT activist
Srijith Sundaram, Theatre practitioner, Kattiyakkari
Amirtharaj Stephen, Photographers for Environment & Peace collective
Anushka Meenakshi, Filmmaker
Iswar Srikumar, Filmmaker
Archanaa Seker, Writer and Activist
Satyarupa Shekhar, Social Activist
Om Prakash Sin gh, Social Activist
Bharat Nayak, Founding Member & Editorial Director, The Logical Indian
Shweta Narayan, Environmental Researcher and Activist
Dharmesh Shah, Environmental Activist & Public Policy Researcher
Pooja Kumar, Chennai Solidarity Group
K Saravanan, Fisherman
Aiswarya Rao, Public Health and Disability Rights Activist
Balaji Sampath, Activist and Educator
Kaber Vasuki, Writer and Musician
Shravan Krishnan, Animals Rights Activist
Sudha Ramamurthy, Persons with Disabilities Rights Activist
Subathra, Arappor Iyakkam
AR Dileep Srinivasan, The New Face of Society
Kavitha Rajendran, Coordinator - People’s Platform Against Fascism
Ram vaitheeswaran, Filmmaker
Mythri Prasad, Associate Fellow, Institute for Human Development
Sudipto Mondal, Journalist, Bangalore
Suseela Anand , Advocate
Sandeep K, Cinematographer
Elangovan kulandaivelu, COO, Zinnea
Gurumoorthy M, AID India Bangalore Chapter and Entrepreneur< br>Rajkumar Sivasamy, Bangalore
Steevez Rodriguez, Photographer
Venkatachandrika R., IT Engineer
Rahul Muralidharan, Researcher, Chennai
T Venkat, Independent Journalist, Chennai
Annapoorni Devaraja, Classical Dancer
Lakshmi Premkumar, Activist, Delhi,
Delfina Kanchana Sundar, Independent Researcher, Chennai
Namithaa Jayasankar, Queer Femme Activist
Samyuktha PC, Chennai, Theatre Director
Satwik Gade, Illustrator
Aparnaaa Nagesh, Founder, High Kicks dance ensemble
Ravindra Vijay, Actor
Akhil Al Hassan, Entrepreneur
Janani Sathviga, Pune
Sonal Jain, Social Entrepreneur
Pradeep Kuttuva, Researcher, Chennai
Pazhani Aarya, Researcher
M.Shreela, Law student
Amba Salelkar, Advocate, Chennai
Chenthil Nathan, Translator, Chennai
Ramya Sadasivam, Artist
Smitha Sadasivan, Member, Disability Rights Alliance, India
Gayatri Nair, Photographer
Nilakantan RS, Data Scientist
Dr. Anbudorai, Psychiatrist

o o o

III.

SEE ALSO:

The Economic Times

Why are people against Vedanta’s Sterlite unit in Tuticorin?

ET Online