A week after the Tamil Nadu police came under immense criticism over the brutality exhibited to anti-Sterlite protesters in a rally on May 22, they have retaliated with video evidence of violence by the agitators. Four videos have been released by the state government, in what seems to be an effort to justify police excess that killed 13 people last week.
The videos show protesters at the FCI Roundtana attacking policemen. In another video, a large crowd can be seen chasing away the police forece.
A total of 34 policemen were injured in the clashes. At the FCI Roundtana hundreds of protesters can be seen marching determinedly with close to 50 policemen running ahead of them. The cops place barricades on the road but this does little to stop the agitators. They can be seen throwing lathis at the police who are now huddled together with see through shields held in front of them.
The next video barely 10 seconds long shows the protesters whacking the police with a lathi. The cop falls down on a heap of stones. In another video demonstrators can be seen carrying an injured policeman away from the crowd, warning other agitators to stay away.
The last video is from the Sterlite employee quarters according to the police. Several youths can be seen in the footage where smoke is bellowing in the background. They seem to be in a parking lot of sorts and one of them is throwing a flaming object into the broken glass behind a car. As per the date stamp, this took place at 12.46 pm and therefore after the police firing.
Elena, a freelance video journalist who was present near the Sterlite quarters told TNM that the violence began after police lathi charged the crowd.
"The protests began peacefully with one lakh agitators. They were all heading towards the Collectorate and were walking on the Palayamkottai road. But when they were stopped and lathi charge happened, they began burning bikes of police officers and barricades were pushed away. The atmosphere became violent and mob-like. Things intensified when we arrived at the Sterlite quarters. The crowd saw an agitator with a bullet wound being taken away. A lock was broken and people began to light cars on fire. The protesters were also carrying petrol bombs. Journalists at the site were also attacked. she explained.
"The police were largely outnumbered. And people began falling back only after the police began shooting," she adds.
The police and the state government have repeatedly claimed that the police firing began after the district administration realised they could not control the violence in the Collectorate. However no CCTV footage has been provided from the premises to prove that the protesters were behind the alleged arson there. The probe into the shootings have been handed over to the CB CID.