Tuticorin villagers accuse Left outfit of inciting violence

5 Jul 2018

Over a month after the unbridled violence during an anti-Sterlite protest here that claimed 13 lives, some locals involved in the incidents have claimed they were "brainwashed" by a Left outfit to picket the district collectorate.
Hundreds of protesters had gone on the rampage on May 22, storming the collectorate, setting buildings and vehicles ablaze, and prompting police action that triggered outrage and forced the Tamil Nadu government to close the copper smelter unit. The outfit--Makkal Adhikaram-- has, however, rejected the allegation. On May 22, after the district collectorate was picketed to seek closure of the copper plant of Sterlite, a unit of the Vedanata group, over pollution concerns, large- scale violence had followed. In the consequent police firing, 13 people were killed on May 22 and 23. Blaming Makkal Adhikaram (People's Power) for the picketing of the district collectorate, Madathur villagers in Tuticorin district accused the outfit and its allied organisations of "changing their hearts".
In a petition to the District Legal Services Authority on July 2, the villagers sought legal help apprehending that several residents may be arrested in connection with the violence. The villagers said in their petition they had assured the district authorities at a peace meeting on May 20 that they would hold a peaceful demonstration at SAV grounds on May 22 to "draw the attention of the government" to the alleged pollution caused by the unit. However, two advocates and their associates "who belong to Makkal Adikaram changed our hearts" in favour of besieging the district collectorate, they claimed.
The two lawyers are now claiming they had nothing to do with the protest, the villagers said, adding it has caused "fear" among them. "We request (the authorities) to avoid linking us with Makkal Adhikaram," they said in their petition, and sought legal support to avert "police trouble" and lead a peaceful life. When asked why the petition was filed long after the violent incidents, D Pon Pandi, the main signatory to the petition and a Madathur resident told news agency PTI: "I have about 40 cases registered against me. We, the Madathur villagers, have got nothing to do with the violence. That is why we have sought legal help." He said people were apprehensive of arrest soon after the conclusion of a local temple festival.