Anti-Sterlite protest in Thoothukudi, the violence and aftermath

Shares of Vedanta fell 6% on Wednesday on reports that nine people were killed in police firing after protests against the closure of Vedanta group's Sterlite Copper plant turned violent in Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin.

Police said almost 5000 protesters gathered near a local church and insisted on taking out a rally to the district collectorate after they were denied permission to march to the copper smelter plant. As the protesters defied prohibitory orders on the 100th day of their agitation and allegedly attacked the District Collectorate, the police resorted to firing. Since February, there have been large-scale protests in Thoothukudi where the Sterlite runs the copper smelter with the capacity to produce 4.38 lakh tonnes of copper anodes per annum, or 1,200 tonnes per day. "Why were automatic weapons used to disperse the crowd and under what law is this permitted?"

"The situation is tense, but under control", said an official at the Thoothukudi police control room, who did not wish to be named as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday termed the death of protesters a "brutal example of state sponsored terrorism".

Tweeting in Tamil, Rahul extended his support to the protesters and said that (PM) Modi's bullet can not crush them. "The postmortem on the bodies is being conducted and they will be handed over to families today".

Demonstrators march to collectors office during a protest demanding the closure of a copper factory in Tuticorin
Demonstrators march to collectors office during a protest demanding the closure of a copper factory in Tuticorin

Although the Tamil Nadu government named nine people who were killed, Governor Banwarilal Purohit put the number at 11 on Tuesday evening.

Chennai: Sterlite Copper on Wednesday said its factory in Tuticorin district is now non-functional and the company is awaiting approval from the authorities to resume operations at the site.

A spokeswoman for Vedanta Resources said it had witnessed the deaths at the protest "with great sorrow and regret". The company has appealed to government and authorities to ensure the safety of our employees, facilities and surrounding communities.

The violence also left at least 60 people injured, among them were policemen too.

The protesters had set ablaze the local administrator's office after they were denied permission to hold a rally at the plant.

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  • Megan Austin