CHENNAI: The Tuesday’s police firing on the anti-Sterlite protesters in Thoothukudi is perhaps the bloodiest in Tamil Nadu’s history since Independence. The highest toll was recorded in 1980 when eight persons were killed when police opened fire on farmers protesting in Kurichakulam village near Kovilpatti in Virudhunagar district.
There was a spate in police firing on farmer protesters between 1970 and 1993. After this, the number of such incidents came down and Tuesday’s incident is a cause for worry.“According to my knowledge, 48 farmers were killed between 1970 and 1993. The farmer protests were staged for a decent price for their produce, free electricity and lower interest rates,” says lawyer KS Radha Krishnan, now a spokesperson in the DMK and once a frontline leader in Tamilaga Vivasayigal Sangam.
The 1980 incident at Kurichakulam, in which eight were killed was the bloodiest. “The last one was at Kovilpatti in 1993 in which one farmer was killed,” said Radha Krishnan.The State in 2016 recognised deaths of at least some victims by announcing solatium of `5 lakh for families of six killed in police firing in Virudhunagar between 1970 and 1980.
The police also opened fire in March 1982, in Mandaikkadupudur in Kanniyakumari district, during a clash between two religious groups. Six fishermen were killed. The only major violence after the end of the farmer protests was in 1999 when a large numbers of employees of various tea estates at Manjolai in Tirunelveli district gathered in Trinunelveli on July 23. The protesters marched towards the Collectorate. On their way, an altercation erupted with police who caned and injured most of the frontline leaders. Hundreds ran helter-skelter and many jumped into Thamirabarani to escape; 17 people drowned.
The last incident of police fire on public was in 2011 at Paramakudi in Ramanathapuram district. An outfit was taking out a procession on September 11 to pay homage to Immanuvel Sekaran, for which police had denied permission. Seven were killed in the police firing.