1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Environmental protest in India turns deadly

May 22, 2018

At least 12 people were killed by police in protests against the Sterlite Copper factory's pollution problems in Thoothukudi. Opposition politicians decried the violence as "state sponsored terrorism."

Protestors in Thoothukudi
Image: Reuters/P. Ravikumar

Indian police said on Tuesday that 12 protestors had been killed after officers opened fire during a demonstration against the Sterlite Copper factory in Thoothukudi, on India's southern coast. Owned by British-based mining giant Vedanta Resources, the Sterlite plant has come under hefty criticism over pollution concerns.

A police official in Chennai, capital of Tamil Nadu state, where Thoothukudi is located, told French news agency AFP: "We have confirmation of 12 people being killed in police firing. We fear the toll may rise."

He added that dozens had been injured.

The incident sparked immediate outrage from opposition lawmakers in New Delhi. Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi called it "state sponsored terrorism."

'Police had to control the violence'

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami announced that he would be launching an official inquiry into the carnage, but said he supported the police.

"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," he said in a statement.

He added that the victims' families would be given one million rupees ($14,700) in compensation.

India's trash problem

Thoothukudi is no stranger to violent demonstrations. In 2012, protests against a nuclear power plant in neighboring Kudankulam left one person dead.

The Sterlite Copper factory is similarly no stranger to controversy, as it was forced to shut down in March 2013 after a reported gas leak left hundreds of locals with labored breathing, nausea, and throat infections. Although its is currently non-operational, locals and activists have been protesting for months over the plants alleged contamination of the ground water. The company, which is trying to expand the site, has denied these claims.

es/rt (AFP, AP)

Every evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.