Human rights experts from the United Nations have condemned the apparent disproportionate use of force by the police against protesters in Tamil Nadu's Thoothukudi, over health and environmental concerns arising out of the copper smelting plant, which led to the death of 13 people.
The plant is run by Sterlite Copper, a business unit of Vedanta Ltd. which is a subsidiary of the UK-based Vedanta Resources, owned by Anil Agarwal.
The Office of the High Commissioner of the United Nations Human Rights issued a detailed statement. Here is the full text:
We are extremely concerned by the apparent disproportionate and excessive use of force, including the use of live ammunition, against protesters marching to raise legitimate human rights and environmental concerns.
We call on the Indian authorities to carry out an independent and transparent investigation, without delay, and to ensure that perpetrators of human rights violations be held accountable. The Government should uphold the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, as they are the cornerstone of democratic societies and a critical tool to identify and protect against business-related human rights abuses.
Under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, all business enterprises have a responsibility to respect human rights, including identifying, preventing, mitigating and accounting for how they address their adverse human rights impacts.
We urge the Indian Government to take all the necessary measures to ensure that all business enterprises respect national as well as international human rights and environmental norms, and that the Sterlite Copper’s smelting plant resumes operations only after meaningful consultation with affected communities and when fully complying with Indian environmental laws.
On May 22, protests against the Sterlite plant turned violent with the police resorting to lathi charge, tear gas and firing and the loss of 13 lives. According to some estimates, almost one lakh protestors participated in the rally.
Subsequently, the Tamil Nadu government issued a Government Order on May 28, endorsing the closure of the plant. Land which was previously allotted to the copper plant for expansion was also cancelled.