Chennai/Tuticorin, May 24
The police firing toll at Tuticorin on Thursday went up to 13, even as cases were registered against Opposition leaders, including DMK’s MK Stalin and actor-politician Kamal Haasan, for defying prohibitory orders, officials said.
Amid a political slugfest over the incidents of police-public clashes, Stalin held a sit-in at Fort St George, the state secretariat, before being physically lifted and removed by security personnel, while Chief Minister K Palaniswami blamed the Opposition for “instigating” violence.
Cases were filed against Stalin, MDMK chief Vaiko, and Kamal Haasan, who recently founded political outfit Makkal Needhi Maiam, for defying prohibitory orders on Wednesday while visiting a hospital in Tuticorin where those injured in clashes were convalescing. Over 100 people were arrested in Tuticorin for rioting, setting ablaze and damaging public property, and assaulting police personnel. As many as 65 of those arrested were granted bail by a Tuticorin court.
Sandeep Nanduri and Murali Rambha, meanwhile, assumed charge as the Collector and SP of Tuticorin, respectively. N Venkatesh and P Mahendran, collector and police superintendent, respectively, were on Wednesday shunted out of Tuticorin following the violence.
Sporadic incidents of violence were reported from a few places in the city where a state-run liquor outlet was ransacked early on Thursday.
Normal life continued to be affected for the third day as modes of public transport did not ply. Most shops were shut.
Police in anti-riot gear patrolled the streets as prohibitory orders banning assembly of more than four people continued to be in force. The government had on Wednesday ordered suspension of internet services in Tuticorin and adjoining districts of Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari for five days to prevent spread of rumours through social media.
Violent protests had erupted in the city on Tuesday and Wednesday as locals took to streets demanding closure of a copper factory of the Vedanta group over pollution concerns. Demanding the resignation of Palaniswami and sacking of state police chief TK Rajendran over large-scale arson and violence in Tuticorin, about 600 km from state capital Chennai, Stalin staged a sit-in with party MLAs at Fort St George complex. Even after police removed the agitators from the secretariat premises, they continued the protest at Rajaji Salai, right in front of Fort St George.
Palaniswami blamed the Opposition and anti-social elements for the violence that brought the city down to its knees. Terming the incidents “unfortunate,” he mourned the deaths and said all past agitations for the closure of the plant were peaceful. He said the state government was making efforts for the closure of the plant since 2013, when late J Jayalalithaa was the CM. “As far as Amma’s government is concerned, we respect people’s feelings,” he said, adding all legal steps were underway to shut the plant, and cases were pending in courts.
Stalin said: “The CM is not bothered about the people. He should resign. DGP TK Rajendran must also be removed or he should quit.” — PTI
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