With the bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi looking over them, dozens of men, women and children descended in front of the Indian embassy on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington to protest against the Sterlite copper plant in Thoothukudi.
Members of the Tamil community in the city came together in the cold on Sunday, wearing jackets and sweaters, and shouted slogans demanding a ban on the company. Even as some protestors drummed away, children held signs calling for justice for the people of the coastal town in Tamil Nadu.
Carrying loudspeakers, they shouted, “Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, do your job, do your job. Shut down, shut down, Sterlite factory shut down.”
Protesters outside the Indian Embassy in Washington DC(Facebook/ Rajaram Srinivasan)
Holding sign boards that read, “Ban Sterlite” and “Stand for Thoothukudi”, the protesters also demanded that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and the Indian Prime Minister must protect the people of Thoothukudi.
In a similar protest outside the Minnesota Senate house in Saint Paul, demonstrators gathered to condemn the Tamil Nadu state and the central governments. They yelled, “Will we allow a mob that has gathered to protect cows destroy people?”
Protesters in Minnesota (YouTube/ Rajesh Govindaraj)
Much like the jallikattu protests, the Sterlite protests in Minnesota took up the multiple issues the state has been facing. Protesters asked, “Will a crowd gathered for Anitha, let Anil run away?”
Sterlite, a part of Vedanta Resources, began construction of a new smelter plant in Thoothukudi, enraging the people of the town who started an indefinite protest. Even as the protest is currently underway, the echoes of the fight were also heard in the UK last week with members of grassroots organisations protesting outside the home of Anil Agarwal, the founder of Vedanta Resources.
Meanwhile in Thoothukudi, protesters gathered last week for a massive public meeting near the Chidambaram Nagar bus stand with two demands: the expansion plans of the Sterlite copper plant in the district should be stopped and the plant itself should be shut down.
The full day agitation came just a month after 250 people in the area went on a hunger strike upon hearing the plans for expansion. In 2013, the Sterlite copper plant was fined by the Supreme Court for polluting the land and water in the area on account of a gas leak. The apex court also slammed the plant for operating without requisite permits for a considerable period of time.