Madras High Court stays expansion for Sterlite plant in Thoothukudi

While leaders of various political parties turned up to meet the injured, media reported how police, which fired at the protesters in retaliation, were equipped to cause harm.

Local residents have been protesting for months against the plant, which is operated by Sterlite Copper, a subsidiary of London-based Vedanta Resources.

Protesters have been alleging that the plant was polluting groundwater in their area.

Sterlite Copper represents the copper unit of Vedanta Ltd which operates a four lakh tonne per annum plant at Tuticorin. A voice could be heard in the background saying: "At least one should die".

"Mass murder of innocent people", he tweeted on Wednesday.

More than 65 people have been injured in the clashes between agitated protestors and police officials. "Why were automatic weapons used to disperse the crowd and under what law is this permitted?"

Rahul Gandhi, the national leader of the opposition Congress party, on Tuesday described the deaths as "a brutal example of state-sponsored terrorism". The government committed a "Himalayan blunder" by handling the protest with 'guns and teargas shells, ' he said, adding at least a Minister accompanied by the district Collector should have spoken to the agitators. About 20 police officers were also injured in the skirmish, which occurred in the southern port city Tuticorin. "The postmortem on the bodies is being conducted and they will be handed over to families today".

The plant was also briefly shut in March 2013 after a suspected gas leak left hundreds of local residents struggling to breath and suffering from nausea and throat infections, according to AFP.

The Tamil Nadu government on Tuesday had ordered a judicial inquiry into the police firing in the state's Toothukudi.

"The police had to take action under unavoidable circumstances to protect public life and property as the protesters resorted to repeated violence. police had to control the violence", Palaniswami said.

"We are shocked and saddened to hear about the incident and we are working with the relevant authorities to ensure the safety of our employees, facilities and the surrounding community", said Kuldip Kaura, CEO of Vedanta Resources during a call with reporters.

  • Tracy Klein