India court halts expansion of Vedanta's copper smelter after protest killings

A police bus was set ablaze in Tuticorin where protesters and police clashed yesterday

The protests that had been going on in Tuticorin for over three months, took a violent turn on Tuesday with agitators fighting pitched battles with police, prompting it to open fire. The state government had also announced a judicial inquiry. The 63-year-old leader consoled them and said that no amount of compensation given to those who had died would be enough. The police have filed a case against Haasan and some of his party workers for visiting Thoothukudi‬ in violation of the prohibitory orders, some reports said. It said the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board had earlier this year rejected Sterlite's application seeking renewal of consent to operate the plant over non-fulfilment of green norms, including those related to disposal of copper waste and effluents.

"Mass Murder of Innocent People", he tweeted Wednesday. To disperse the protesters, the police opened fire, which led to the killings of 11 people.

A video of a police officer on top of a bus and pointing an assault rifle at crowds has fuelled fresh anger.

The head of the national opposition Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, condemned the use of lethal force, calling it "a brutal example of state-sponsored terrorism".

Thousands of protestors assembled for hours in India's southern Tamil Nadu to demand the closure of a British-owned copper plant due to worries over pollution, Agence France-Presse reports. "Tamil Nadu Government should take the responsibility for the loss of life, and violence in Tuticorin".

Madras High Court issues interim stay on expansion of Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi

The company maintains that it adheres to environmental standards and said it was the victim of "false propaganda" about its operations.

The plan by the London-listed firm to double the capacity of the smelter to 800,000 tonnes ignited the demonstrations and prompted activists to petition the court to intervene. "The company is working with the relevant authorities to ensure the safety of our employees, facilities and the surrounding community", she said.

The plant was also briefly shut in March 2013 after a suspected gas leak left hundreds of local residents struggling to breath and suffering from nausea and throat infections, according to AFP.

Tamil Nadu is one of India's most prosperous and industrialised states but, as elsewhere in the country, environmental regulations are routinely breached and poorly policed.

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