As the anti-Sterlite protests in Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin turned violent and led to the death of nine people on Tuesday, the state government assured that it will take action 'respecting' people's feelings and appealed to all for calm.
"The mob resorted to violence, set on fire police vehicles and those parked at the collectorate and pelted stones at the collector's office," according to a government statement.
The police action left one dead amid unconfirmed reports that the toll was far more, was carried out under "unavoidable circumstances", the statement said. It said that about 20,000 people took out a procession towards the district collectorate and the copper plant, demanding its permanent closure and resorted to violence.
"To bring the violence under control, under unavoidable circumstances, police had to take action. To maintain law and order additional police personnel have been sent to Tuticorin," the statement said though it did not explicitly mention what the police action was - firing or baton charge, as police allegedly resorted to both.
The state government assured further legal action "respecting" people's feelings.
"The Tamil Nadu government requests the people to accept this (assurance) and maintain peace," it said in the statement.
Sterlite Industries India Ltd, a Vedanta Group unit, was in operation in Meelavitan in Tuticorin for the past 20 years. Following a gas leak in March 2013 in the plant, the then chief minister, late J Jayalalithaa, ordered its closure, following which the company moved the National Green Tribunal against the state government.
The locals alleged that the plant was polluting groundwater and causing serious health issues. With the tribunal overturning the Government Order, the state moved the Supreme Court against it, and the petition was now pending there, the statement added.
The government recalled the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) earlier this year rejecting Sterlite's application, seeking renewal of consent to operate the plant for non-fulfilment of green norms. These included issues relating to disposal of copper waste and effluents, it said.
The company later moved an Appellate Authority against this and the next hearing is slated for June 6, it said, adding, the TNPCB counsel had strongly argued against operations in the plant. The government said it was committed to respecting people's aspirations and was working in sync with it.
(With inputs from agencies)