THOOTHUKUDI: The question on everyone’s mind as to who passed the order to open fire at anti-Sterlite protesters was answered on Monday when copies of FIRs registered at three police stations – SIPCOT, North and South – in the town revealed that the go-ahead to gun down agitators was given by three deputy tahsildars. On Tuesday last, the public protest against Sterlite Copper took a violent turn, leaving 13 dead and over a 100 injured. Four incidents of police firings were reported from the collectorate premises, on the NH, Threspuram and Anna Nagar. The unprecedented surge in the number of protesters caught the police unawares, with the mob surmounting barricades, resulting in lathi-charge and teargas shelling, especially at Madathur, VVD signal, Mathakovil and FCI godown junction.
When the crowd reached collectorate around 10.30 am, they were stopped in their tracks by armed police. A skirmish was reported and the police opened fire. As the then collector N Venkatesh was not on the premises, questions were raised over who order the firing. Later, based on a complaint from Special Deputy Tahsildar (Election) Sekar, the SIPCOT police registered a case against 400 people. Sekar, in the complaint, said he ordered the police to open fire against rioters. Later, he order the police to open fire when the mob reached the residential quarters of Sterlite Copper employees, the FIR copy says.
In the FIR filed at North police station, protesters were arrested based on a complaint given by Zonal Deputy Tahsildar M Kannan. The deputy tasildar Kannan admitted to ordering police to open fire at Threspuram. In the FIR filed against the mob at Anna Nagar, Deputy Tahsildar (Excise) Chandran said he order police firing on May 23.
Government officials claimed that police opened fire at the protesters when they reached the collectorate raising anti-Sterlite slogans. A shopkeeper said that he ran out of his shop the moment reports of gunfire were heard. “The protesters hurled stones at the collectorate. I heard the report of gunfire from the highway and later from the collectorate,” he added.