The brutal massacre of more than 13 protesters by the Tamil Nadu Police, controlled by the fascist AIADMK regime, in a span of two days, 22 and 23 May 2018, to suppress the democratic mass agitation against the Sterlite Copper plant owned by Vedanta Resources, a British mining giant that has all major parliamentary political parties of India in its pocket, shows how the Hindutva fascist Indian state is nakedly stooping before the might of foreign capital and how the Indian state is dropping all inhibitions and killing more people than ever before with utmost impunity to serve its foreign and domestic masters.
Vedanta Resources has an annual revenue of more than $11.5 billion, as per their website and this revenue makes it easier for Anil Agarwal, the London-based Chairman of the mining giant and a vocal supporter of Narendra Modi and his Hindutva fascist agenda, to win the loyalty of the decision makers in India by greasing few palms. The trickle-down benefits keep the politicians, ministers, the bureaucratic machine, pressure groups and the judiciary happy and manufacture vibrant supporters out of them for the cause of plundering the nation and its resources, both mineral and human.
It’s not the first instance that the Vedanta Resources or its subsidiaries are entangled in a confrontation with the local populace, rather, there is no place where this notorious mining corporation has done business without causing severe damage to the environment and without being hostile to the people. The biggest confrontation between the Vedanta Resources and the indigenous people took place in Niyamgiri Hills of Odisha, where the Dongria Kondh tribe, which inhabits the mountains and the jungles since centuries, didn’t let the infamous mining giant occupy the land and the mountain to excavate bauxite and their struggle even won a legal battle, first of its kind in India, in which the mining corporation lost its case. Vedanta has also invested a lot of money in signing MoUs to procure mining rights in Chhattisgarh and it’s a crucial sponsor in the government’s war against the tribal people in South Chhattisgarh, which aims at evicting them from their land, forests and rivers.
The former Tamil Nadu chief minister and late AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa allowed Vedanta Resources to set up the Sterlite Copper unit in the coastal town of Thoothukudi in 1993 when her government was in power. J. Jayalalithaa was accused in a disproportionate asset case for amassing wealth beyond her known sources of income. It’s evident that since then the AIADMK is fighting on behalf of the Vedanta Resources even when the local population have rallied in large numbers against Sterlite Copper plant. It was the fishermen of the region who first understood the gravity of the situation as the waste of the plant was to be discharged into the Indian Ocean, which would actually toxify the water and thereby affect their livelihood.
Their strong protests in the mid-1990s didn’t stop the government to allow Vedanta Resources to build the factory, which started operation in 1997. To quell the movement, which was initially spearheaded by a faction of the MDMK, the Vedanta management tried every dirty trick they knew. They tried bribing the leaders, recruit few locals, intimidate the participants and use the clout of the company on the governments in Chennai and New Delhi to earn mileage against the people’s movement. However, despite such heinous attempts, all the plans of the mining giant went astray, while the people’s struggle intensified.
The protesters sought legal recourse in the early 2000s and in 2010, the Madras High Court ruled in their favour. Very soon, within three days, the Supreme Court overturned the decision and allowed the Sterlite Copper plant to run its operation. A gas-leak in 2013 caused another round of severe intensity agitation, which forced the factory to remain closed, however, the Supreme Court allowed it to function again by merely paying ₹100 crore as fine. Anil Agarwal obliged quickly.
While the anger of people didn’t subside that the Sterlite Copper, brushing aside all allegations of pollution, decided to expand its plant in connivance with the AIADMK and the BJP. Despite the Madras High Court denying the permission to the company to expand, the audacity of the Vedanta Resources, fuelled by Narendra Modi’s wholehearted support to its notorious agenda, made it expand the plant without giving any consideration to the court verdict.
When the common people of Thoothukudi started their agitation on 24 March 2018 to oppose the expansion of the plant, the Sterlite Copper management secretly connived with the district and state-level politicians of the ruling party and other principal parties, bureaucrats, collector and police personnel to secure the interests of the mining giant from the wrath of the people, who would settle for nothing but the closure of the plant. By greasing few palms and by throwing some bones at the state’s administration, the Sterlite Copper management tried to secure its future in the coastal city.
The Tamil Nadu government, led by the AIADMK’s E. Palaniswamy and O. Panneerselvam faction, knew that the agitation of the residents against the Sterlite Copper will intensify in the coming days. Still, following the footsteps of J. Jayalalithaa, who appeased big global capital at the cost of the agony of common people, the AIADMK government decided to throw its weight behind the Sterlite Copper plant. The Thoothukudi collector, the government, the Home Ministry and the Modi government were connected to suppress the genuine mass movement to ensure a smooth operation for the Sterlite Copper plant. There were plans prepared beforehand by the Modi government and its lackey – the AIADMK-led Tamil Nadu government to create a riot-like situation, which can be used as a context to crackdown on the genuine movement.
During the 22 May march, observing the 100th day of the agitation against the illegal expansion of the Sterlite Copper plant, the AIADMK and RSS goons instigated a riot in connivance with the now-ousted District Collector and the Tamil Nadu Police. They torched government vehicles and resorted to Luddite violence to confuse the agitators and to provide an opportunity to the police to start its violent crackdown.
The Tamil Nadu Police took the opportunity and used its Zionist Israel-trained snipers and armed men to indiscriminately shoot at the genuine protesters, who resorted to stone pelting against the Tamil Nadu Police when the latter attacked them. People were deliberately targeted above the abdomen as the state brutally murdered them to appease Anil Agarwal and the Vedanta Resources. A 17-year-old school girl was shot point-blank, aiming her mouth, by a Tamil Nadu policeman. The police were not allowing anyone to survive, while at the same time burning vehicles themselves to build up an alimony against the people.
After murdering nearly 13 in two days and injuring more than 110, the Tamil Nadu Police disconnected the internet and stopped most of the independent media houses from covering the real incidents of goriest atrocities committed by it. While a district court judge took a bold step by releasing all 62 people arrested by the Tamil Nadu Police in Thoothukudi, the policemen are still arresting and imprisoning agitators following the orders given by the RSS and the AIADMK leaders of Tamil Nadu.
The complicity of the BJP and the entire Hindutva camp, led by the Modi government, is so evident in Tamil Nadu that it becomes hard to separate the ruling AIADMK cadres from the opposition BJP cadres. The RSS men have been defending the shooting on the protesters vehemently and more unapologetically than the AIADMK, calling it necessary to prevent the situation from taking the turn of “Kashmir” in Thoothukudi.
This complicity has caused so much trouble for the BJP that even the Republic TV, after broadcasting a programme with a Tamil Nadu BJP leader decrying his support for the police, claiming it a bold step to prevent the recurrence of a “Kashmir-type situation” in Thoothukudi, had to take the programme off the air and the Home Ministry of Rajnath Singh had to do some hogwash measures by demanding report from the Tamil Nadu government over the shooting.
At the beginning, the AIADMK government stood behind the police action initiated by it in connivance with the BJP; however, as the tide turned adverse and a statewide anti-incumbency wave rose against it, even demanding its dissolution, providing enough ammo to the opposition DMK, MDMK, CPI and CPI(M), the ruling party tried to wash-off its hands by taking cosmetic measures against few police personnel and by removing the district collector, who earned the nickname of – Sterlite’s running dog- for the dirty role he played in the massacre of the people.
To efface the crimes committed by it from the public memory and to befool the people, the AIADMK even formed a judicial enquiry committee headed by a former judge, which, according to the Indian experience, wouldn’t do any justice to the victims for decades to come. The people, aware of such cheap tricks, refused to give in and have upped their ante against the unpopular regime with vigour.
This massacre of innocent Tamil agitators by the Indian state ruled by the Hindutva fascist Modi government and the AIADMK, which shows obeisance towards New Delhi, has created a stir in the entire Dravida heartland, as the people: the workers, the peasants, the fishermen, the toiling masses, the small business owners, the women, the students and youth saw clearly how the state, which claims to be democratic in nature, kills them with utmost impunity to safeguard the interests of big foreign corporations and their billionaire owners.
Though later the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board ordered a temporary closure of the Thoothukudi Sterlite Copper plant, it was too late for a damage control, as the people have seen how the Vedanta Resources’ money power helps the polluting factory to get rid of legal compliances and cause immense damage to the lives and livelihood of the people. They know that the Sterlite Copper will be opened again when the wave of their movement will subside. This is a reason they are demanding a permanent closure of the anti-people smelting unit.
It’s said that all bad things have a good side. The Jallianwala Bagh massacre gave rise to a series of nationwide anti-colonial struggles, which later forced the British to quit India handing over power to their trusted lackeys. Similarly, the massacre of the common people in Thoothukudi, the blood of the innocents spilled on the street of the small coastal town of Tamil Nadu, will certainly arouse a new wave of anti-fascist movement in the state and elsewhere, especially in those locations, where the government is stooping shamelessly before the big corporations, foreign and domestic, and allowing them the golden chance to annex people’s land and then poison the environment.
Tamil Nadu and the people fighting against Hindutva fascism throughout India, from Guwahati to Ahmedabad, from Shopian to Bastar, will not let the sacrifice of the martyrs of anti-Sterlite protest in Thoothukudi go in vain. It’s evident from the fact that a massive anti-Vedanta, anti-Hindutva and anti-fascist movement has now shaped throughout Tamil Nadu, out of the boundaries of Thoothukudi, the flame of which has even engulfed the “Amma-famed” J. Jayalalithaa’s carefully manufactured legacy. The people’s struggle against the Modi government and its lackey, the AIADMK-led Tamil Nadu government, is going to grow into a stronger movement in the future and can prove to be a lethal weapon, or the beginning of a nationwide anti-fascist people’s storm that will take down the regime of the corporate bootlicker BJP and the RSS.