Thoothukudi/Chennai, May 24: Thoothukudi remained tense for the third day as the death toll in police firing climbed to 13 while Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K. Palaniswamy on Thursday accused political parties and anti-social elements of “deliberately instigating and misleading” innocent people leading to violence and loss of lives.
Selvasekar (43), who suffered serious injuries in police lathicharge on Tuesday, succumbed to injuries in hospital. More than 70 people, including police personnel who were injured in the clashes and violence, were undergoing treatment in the Government General Hospital.
Chief Minister Palaniswamy, who met reporters in Chennai, said his government would continue to take steps legally for closure of the Sterlite copper smelter plant against which the local people have been protesting and said electricity to the plant was cut on Thursday. “Some political parties and anti-social elements have wantonly instigated the innocent people who have been protesting peacefully all along and took them on the wrong path, leading to unfortunate incidents,” Palaniswamy said without naming any political party. Replying to a question on who had given permission for the firing, he said there was nothing like permission. “It was natural that somebody would act in self-defence when attacked and the action was not pre-meditated. The police used tear gas shells, resorted to lathi charge and then only opened fire when mobs set on fire vehicles near the district collectorate and stormed the residential quarters in the plant and the district collectorate,” he said.
Usualy the police make preventive arrests but this time there was sudden violence compared to the peaceful protest that had been going on. The protesters had met the district administration 16 times in the past and their grievances had been addressed. “We express deep condolences and a sense of sorrow over the loss of lives,” he said.
Asked about the charge by DMK leader M.K. Stalin that he refused to meet him on the issue, the Chief Minister accused him of enacting a drama outside his roon in the Secretariat by doing a dharna when he was not there. Replying to a question about the criticism that he did not visit Thoothukudi to meet the relatives of the victims and the injured, he said prohibitory orders had been imposed and people should respect law by not holding protests or taking out processions. Referring to the protests and the functioning of the sterlite plant, the Chief Minister said that the late Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha had ordered closure of the sterlite plant in 2013 but the company appealed against the order in the National Green Tribunal which allowed the company to operate under some conditions.