THOOTHUKUDI: While First Information Reports (FIRs) revealed that deputy tahsildar-rank officers had given orders to police to open fire on anti-Sterlite protesters on May 22 and May 23 in Thoothukudi, the deployment order issued by sub-collector, accessed by Express, has revealed the officials were deployed in spots away from the police stations at which the FIRs were filed.
Zonal deputy tahsildar M Kannan who, according to the FIR, gave the order at Threspuram on May 22 was deployed close to 15 km away near the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board office. Deputy Tahsildar (election) Sekar gave the order at the Collectorate on May 22 but was deployed 10km away to monitor Fatima Nagar, Lionstown and nearby areas. Only Excise officer, S Chandran, who ordered the firing at Anna Nagar on May 23, as per his complaint at South police station, was deployed in some proximity to the firing, monitoring SAV ground and old bus stand area. Thirteen people were killed as police opened fire four times over two days.
According to the deployment order issued by sub-collector M S Prashanth, two special tahsildars, five deputy tahsildars, one supply officer and one excise officer were deployed in the town to assist police as anti-Sterlite protesters took to streets despite prohibitory orders, on May 22.
According to the FIRs, Kannan had gave the firing order at Threspuram while Sekar gave the order at the collectorate on May 22. Chandran gave the order at Anna Nagar on May 23. Prashanth refused to comment on why the officials filed FIRs in areas away from where they had been deployed, stating that the whole matter was under investigation. However, he confirmed that he had issued the deployment order and positioned the officials as detailed in it. He maintained that that the actions of the officials in question were “justifiable before court of law”.
One of the officers who had ordered the shooting told Express, on conditions of anonymity, “I had no intention to kill anyone. I did not lie about anything in the complaint, but truly I am loyal to the government.” He added that it was unfortunate incident in the history of Thoothukudi. “Even the coral mill workers’ protest against the British over poor wages in 1908 and the subsequent violence during freedom fighter V O Chidambaranar’s struggle did not witness such a bloodshed,” he said. “I saw the policemen who shot at the protesters weeping,” he added.
Former Madras High court judge K Chandru, commenting on the matter, said the FIRs lay exposed, while former bureaucrat MG Deivasahayam said that deputy tahsildars cannot order firing when they are not present at the spot.
HC seeks reply from
3 deputy tahsildars
The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court directed its registry to implead the three deputy tahsildars, who ordered the police to fire on anti-Sterlite protestors in Thoothukudi, and sought a reply from them