The protestors responded to the police resistance by pelting stones at them and setting vehicles on fire en route to the march. It said around 20,000 people took out a rally against the company and became violent by attacking police and burning police vehicles while storming the Collector's office.
One of the deaths occurred near the district collectorate, where hundreds of residents had gathered even though the administration had imposed prohibitory orders in view of the scheduled protest. "Since the protestors indulged in violence, the police had to resort to firing to bring the situation under control". In the police firing that ensued, at least nine protesters were killed and over 60 people injured, sources said.
Chief Minister E Palaniswami, confirming the nine deaths, announced a judicial inquiry into the violence.
The participants of the procession, which marched towards the Collectorate, toppled a police vehicle, torched many vehicles parked on the two-wheeler parking space and damaged as many as six four-wheelers belonging to the Revenue Department.
People in Toothukudi are demanding the closure of Sterlite copper smelting plant alleging that it was polluting the area, and leading to severe health problems among the residents of the locality, besides depleting the water table.
Almost 3000 police personnel have been deployed under four Additional Superintendents of Police and 13 Dy SPs to bring the situation under control, official sources said.
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The assembly of more than five persons has been banned in and around the Sterlite unit to provide security to it, in line with the orders of the Madras High Court. When the demonstrators continued with the pelting of stones, the police resorted to firing of tear gas shells.
ADMK Government is responsible for the violence in Tuticorin.
He also urged people to stay calm and said that the government respects the feelings of the people and will take appropriate action on the matter. The protest, which reminded everyone of the 2017 Jallikattu protest in Chennai's Marina beach, was organised using social media. They had intensified protests demanding closure of the plant after reports came in that the group was seeking licence for expansion as the initial 25 year licence comes to an end. Though the plant was ordered to shut down following allegations of violating pollution control norms, the National Green Tribunal had ultimately allowed it to be reopened.
Rajinikanth, who had some time ago tweeted on the Sterlite protests, said: "One can't understand why the government, which gave the nod for the plant, is not taking any action and is just watching". They have always been dying, first because of the plant now because of the government's attitude. Sterlite Copper represents the copper unit of Vedanta Limited.
Leader of Opoosition and DMK working President MK Stalin condemned "police atrocities" on the protestors.
It said in March this year, the company had applied for removal of consent to operate (CTO) for its existing smelter plant. "They are the ones who lose their lives", Mr Haasan, who had earlier participated in the peaceful protests against the plant, said.