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Senior Tamil Nadu minister Jayakumar said that the police didn't have an option but to open fire since the protests had turned "extremely violent".

Five people died on Tuesday after the ongoing anti-Sterlite protests in Thoothukudi turned violent after hundreds of villagers from nearby areas thronged the area violating the prohibitory orders. To mark the 100th day of the protest for the closure of the plant, the protesters chose to march towards the Collector's office. To disperse the protesters, the police fired teargas shells and gunshots.

Agitators toppled vehicles, vandalized government offices and surrounded the district collector's office.

The Chief Minister also announced a compensation of Rs. 10 lakh each to the families of those killed, Rs 3 lakh to those seriously injured, and Rs 1 lakh for those who suffered minor injuries.

The protesters have been demanding the shut down of Vedanta's Sterlite unit at Tuticorin, alleging that the plant is adversely affecting the health of people in and around the area.

The Chief Minister, who held a meeting with his ministerial colleagues and top police officials including DGP T.K. Rajendran, said action would be taken against the company. "The Tamil Nadu govt is responsible for the violence and the loss of lives".

Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPc) has been invoked in and around the Sterlite unit to provide security to it as per the orders of the Madras High Court, said police.

Protests against Vedanta copper smelter in Tuticorin turn violent
Protests against Vedanta copper smelter in Tuticorin turn violent

The state government assured that an inquiry commission will be set up for investigation into the incident. As the protest went out of control, the police personnel from the neighbouring districts were brought in to bring the situation under control. Meanwhile, reports said that a 16-year-old girl was injured in the police firing.

The state's main opposition DMK party slammed the government for failing to address the concerns of the local people.

'The inaction of the government has led to the people's protests, and police resorting to firing to control it. Action should be taken to shut down the plant immediately to address this issue, ' MK Stalin, leader of the main opposition group in Tamil Nadu, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, said in a Facebook post.

Actor Kamal Haasan's Makkal Needhi Maiam condemned the police action of opening fire on the protestors.

He also promised government jobs for one family member of each of those who lost their lives in accordance with their qualifications.

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 demonstrators later set the collectorate office on fire in protest against the alleged police firing.

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