Amnesty condemns TN firing deaths

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New Delhi, May 23 (IANS) Amnesty International India on Wednesday condemned the Tamil Nadu Police for its handling of anti-Sterlite protest in which at least 11 people were shot dead and several more injured over two days, terming it a “damning indictment”of the state government.

It was the 100th day of the protest against the copper smelting plant in Tamil Nadu’s Toothukudi on Tuesday when the state police opened fire on the protestors. Police said that it resorted to firing as thousands of people gathered in defiance of prohibitory orders at the District Collector’s office and engaged in violence.

“The Tamil Nadu Police were shockingly under-prepared to peacefully control protests of this magnitude. Despite knowing there would be a massive protest on Tuesday, the state police did little to implement crowd control measures that would have avoided the need to resort to force.

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“This could have prevented the death of protestors. The Tamil Nadu police have many questions to answer. Those responsible for deaths and injuries caused to protestors must be brought to justice,” Abhirr V. P., Senior Campaigner at Amnesty International India, said in a statement.

“Police should only use force as a last resort… and must be able to distinguish between persons engaging in violence and peaceful demonstrators or bystanders,” he said.

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.

Sterlite Industries is a subsidiary of Vedanta Resources, which engages in the mining of copper in Toothukudi in Tamil Nadu.

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