After the police failed attempt to disperse the crowd, the protestors who were demanding the shutting down of the Sterlite Copper Smelter Plant engaged in stone pelting and torched police vehicles and two-wheelers. Reports say that the police opened fire at around 12:50 pm when they manhandled a freelance photographer's camera and snatched the memory card. However, everything turned futile, when the protests took a violent turn on the 100th day of the protest.
Agitators toppled vehicles, vandalized government offices and surrounded the district collector's office. When the demonstrators continued with the pelting of stones, the police resorted to firing of tear gas shells.
Tracing the history of Sterlite Industries India Ltd, a Vedanta Group unit, it saidthe plant was in operation in Meelavitan in Tuticorin for the past 20 years.
The residents of Tuticorin were demanding the closure of the Sterlite Copper unit over the concerns of pollution.
The Chief Minister, who held a meeting with his ministerial colleagues and top police officials including DGP T.K. Rajendran, said action would be taken against the company.
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.
Several shops in this town, Srivaikundam and Oddapidaram remained shut in support of the protest, police said.
About 20,000 people gathered at the protest site today and stormed the district collector's office, vandalising government property.
Over 4,000 police personnel from the nearby district have been deployed to prevent crowding proved futile, as the protesters at various areas breached the barricades and marched forward towards the collectorate.
DMK Working President MK Stalin blamed the State government, which had failed to find a solution to the problem.
Actors Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth, who recently announced their entry into politics, have also expressed solidarity with the protesters. The use of force by the police was unavoidable, he said. He said that the alleged violations at the existing factory complex need to be investigated and even the existing plant should be closed if found in violation of norms and laws.
Meanwhile his party, the Makkal Needhi Maiam also released a statement saying that the negligence of the government was the reason behind the clashes.
Thousands of protesters, especially from Kumarettiyapuram, have been up against the plant's proposed expansion plans citing the threat it poses to the people in neighbouring villages. Residents have been agitating against the copper plants of the company, alleging that the pollution emitted by these plants was causing severe health issues, including cancer, among the people residing in the area.
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