Under immense criticism following the death of at least 13 people in police firing in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappaddi Palaniswami addressed the media for the first time following Tuesday’s protests.
Justifying the police firing on unarmed protesters, the Chief Minister said that the police had to resort to this, calling it natural and not pre-planned. “Some anti-social elements instigated the situation. They attacked the police. Police first used tear gas, then protesters tried to set fire to Collector's office and vans on fire. That's why the police had to resort to this. This is a natural reaction, it wasn't pre-planned."
Putting the blame squarely on “anti-social elements” and Opposition parties for Tuesday’s violence, EPS claimed that they had instigated the people of Thoothukudi to give a bad name to the government.
“So far the protests were peaceful, but this time because of the Opposition it turned violent. It is because of this instigation so many people have died. And we really saddened by the deaths,” he said.
Speaking to reporters at the Secretariat, a smiling EPS was flanked by his Cabinet colleagues, including Deputy CM O Panneerselvam, ministers Jayakumar and Sengottaiyan among others.
The Chief Minister went on to say that “Amma’s government” had done everything to respect the feelings of people. He went on to elaborate that late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had questioned the permission given to Sterlite on May 29, 2013 and had gone on to cancel the copper smelter’s permission to operate.
“NGT then gave a ruling that they can run a smelter if they follow rules. Amma then went to the Supreme Court, and this case is going on,” EPS observed, going on to add that under his tenure the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) had denied permission to Sterlite to operate in April. He also pointed to Thursday’s closure notice to Sterlite by TNPCB.
The CM said, “Amma's government has followed the feelings of people. But despite this protests were held.”
Palaniswami then went on to slam Leader of Opposition and DMK’s working President MK Stalin for staging a political drama outside his office on Thursday.
“There was a meeting that was held. Everyone participated. Suddenly, Leader of Opposition (MK Stalin) got out of the Speaker's chambers suddenly. The meeting continued and 15 minutes later we watched on news that he wanted to meet us and the CM refused to meet him.”
Claiming that Stalin had given “fake news” that he refused to meet him, EPS went on to say that the DMK leader could have given the petition to him at the meeting or raised the issue with him there.
“But because he wanted to stage a political drama, he gave fake news that I refused to meet him,” EPS hit out.
Earlier in the day, Stalin together with DMK and Congress leaders staged a protest at the Secretariat. Stalin had walked out of the Business Advisory Committee Meeting, demanding that CM Edappadi Palaniswami and DGP TK Rajendran step down from their posts for the violence in Thoothukudi.
He first protested outside the CM's chamber, but the agitators were physically evicted by police personnel.
The DMK then held protests outside the Tamil Nadu Secretariat, led by Working President MK Stalin. “Even after deaths of 13 innocent people, no action has been taken against the culprits. The CM has become ineffective. He did not bother to visit the district and meet the people. Therefore, we demand that the CM resign immediately. DGP Rajendran must resign too,” he said.
Stalin along with other leaders were later detained by the police.