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India: At least 10 people dead during protests against Vedanta's operations; co. responds

Indian officials have ordered the closure of the nation's second-largest copper smelting plant, owned by UK-based Vedanta, due to fears of pollution and in response to protests. Police killed 13 people in recent protests aimed at closing the plant. We invited Vedanta to respond regarding the killing of protesters, Vedanta responded.

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Article
1 January 2019

India: Environmental tribunal allows Vedanta to restart key copper smelter

Author: Dhanya Ann Thoppil, Nikkei Asian Review, Japan

"India environmental tribunal allows Vedanta to restart key copper smelter", 17 December 2018

An Indian environmental court allowed Vedanta to resume operations of its copper smelter in sourthern Tamil Nadu that had remained shut for more than six months following a state government order amid allegations of pollution...In May, [the company] was forced to permanently shut its Sterlite copper smelter in Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu...after protests by environmentalists turned violent. As many as 13 people were killed in an ensuing police shootout. Following the incident, the state government cut off the power supply to the smelter, India's second-largest.

The smelter had not been operational since March as the state pollution control board refused to issue its consent for operating the plant...According to local media reports, the Tamil Nadu government is likely to challenge the tribunal's order in India's Supreme Court...

Vedanta faced another major setback in India in February, when it was forced to close down its iron ore mine in the western Indian state of Goa after the Supreme Court quashed all iron-ore mining permits and mining in the state...

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Article
5 December 2018

India: Activists question neutrality of NGT committee's conclusion that closure of Sterlite/Vedanta plant was illegal

Author: S Senthalir, Scroll.in

"Sterlite Copper row: Activists question neutrality of NGT panel that found closure of plant illegal", 29 November 2018

Environmental activists on Wednesday [28 November] expressed disappointment with a National Green Tribunal-appointed committee’s conclusion that the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to shut down the Sterlite Copper smelter in Thoothukudi district on May 28 is illegal, improper and “in violation of natural justice”...Describing the finding as “predictable”,...a member of the Anti-Sterlite People’s Movement and one of the interveners in the case, said, “We had earlier expressed our doubts about the neutrality of the committee by way of an application at the NGT..."

The state government issued the order to shut down the Sterlite Copper smelter after 13 people protesting the planned expansion of the plant were killed in police firing in Thoothukudi on May 22...In June, Vedanta challenged the state government’s closure order in the National Green Tribunal...On August 23, the tribunal set up the three-member committee to conduct an “independent probe”...The [committee]...concluded that the [order was] not maintainable as the company was not given an opportunity to defend itself...The National Green Tribunal will now hold the final hearing in the case on December 7 and pronounce its order...

At a hearing in Chennai on October 5, the committee received more than 3 lakh [300,000] letters opposing the reopening of the plant...Nearly 1.7 lakh [170,000] of the representations were reportedly from the Anti-Sterlite People’s Movement. Later that month, the Tamil Nadu government told the National Green Tribunal that the air quality in Thoothukudi had improved since the plant was shut down...

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Article
5 December 2018

India: Case registered against police and revenue department officials for death of 13 people during Sterlite/Vedanta protest

Author: Scroll.in

"Thoothukudi killings: CBI registers case against police and revenue department officials", 29 November 2018

The Central Bureau of Investigation on Thursday [29 November] registered a case against unidentified Tamil Nadu Police personnel and revenue department officials for the death of 13 people in police firing during anti-Sterlite protests in Thoothukudi on May 22...The CBI has charged the accused with, among other offences, criminal conspiracy, disobeying law with the intent to cause injury to people and criminal intimidation. The CBI has not named any police or revenue official in the FIR [First Information Report] despite video evidence and complaints submitted to the agency naming a few officials...

On October 8, the investigation agency had filed a first information report against an unspecified number of persons from 20 organisations on charges that included rioting and voluntarily causing hurt with dangerous weapons. The document reproduced the contents of an earlier first information report filed at the SIPCOT police station in Thoothukudi on May 22, and was re-registered in August on the order of the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court.

In its order on August 14, the High Court had said it “fail[ed] to understand how not a single case... has been registered at the instance of the injured or family members of the deceased”. The court had said that an investigation in the case cannot be avoided.

The CBI action...came a day after environmental activists expressed disappointment with a National Green Tribunal-appointed committee’s conclusion that the state government’s decision to shut down the smelter on May 28 was illegal, improper and “in violation of natural justice”.

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Article
5 December 2018

India: Central Bureau of Investigation starts inquiry into Sterlite/Vedanta protests and police firing

Author: S Senthalir, Scroll.in

"Sterlite protests: As CBI starts inquiry, families of 13 victims demand action against TN police", 15 October 2018

On Sunday [14 October], the Central Bureau of Investigation’s Special Crime Branch began its investigation into the protests against Sterlite Copper’s smelter in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu, and the police firing on May 22 in which 13 people agitating against the plant’s expansion were killed.

...On October 8, the investigation agency had filed a first information report against an unspecified number of persons from 20 organisations on charges that included rioting and voluntarily causing hurt with dangerous weapons...The violence on May 22 followed two decades of protests by Thoothukudi residents and activists, who claimed the smelter operated by a unit of mining and metals major Vedanta was a health hazard. The day after the police firing, the state government permanently shut down the plant.

As the CBI starts its investigation, relatives of the deceased are unsure whether it will investigate their charges of murder and attempt to murder against the police...[According to] People’s Watch, the CBI may not be in a hurry to file a case against the police...On the other hand, [a lawyer], who practises law at the Madurai bench, pointed out that the High Court had clearly said that the Central Bureau of Investigation should register a case or cases on complaints received against the police after the May 22 incident...

 

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Article
5 December 2018

India: High Court orders inquiry into police firing on anti-Sterlite protest

Author: Hindustan Times, India

"Madras HC orders CBI inquiry into police firing on anti-Sterlite protest", 14 August 2018

The Madras high court’s Madurai bench on Tuesday [14 August] ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the police firing on the anti-Sterlite protesters in Thoothukudi on May 22 that left 13 persons dead and scores injured.

The bench...transferred all cases pertaining to the police firing to the CBI, while also quashing the detention of six members of Makkal Adhikaram [People's Power]...under the National Security Act (NSA) for allegedly instigating violence. The bench also transferred all the anti-Sterlite violence cases to the agency, ordering it to carry out a fresh probe.

The copper smelter plant owned by mining major Vedanta Ltd in Thoothukodi hit the headlines following daily protests for 100 days against its planned expansion. On May 22, a massive protest was held by the local residents which triggered a major violence, leading the police to open fire...

Early this month, the court also quashed the NSA invoked against [lawyer] Hari Raghavan who had appeared for the protesters. The Court also summoned the Thoothukudi district collector Sandeep Nanduri and directed him not to register cases against villagers who protested against the Sterlite plant...

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Article
5 December 2018

India: Report by Peoples Inquest on deadly police response to protest against Vedanta's operations alleges malafide intent and murder

Author: Peoples Inquest into Thoothukudi Police Firing

"PRESS RELEASE: Evidence Suggests Malafide Intent and Murder, says Inquest Report into Thoothukudi Police Violence", 15 July 2018

Citing evidence pointing to violation of Standard Operating Procedures, a total breakdown of civilian authority and possible malafide intent and murder, a 23-member team of retired judges, senior bureaucrats and police officers, and social activists have called for a full administrative and criminal investigations into the 22 May 2018 Thoothukudi police firings and violence that resulted in the deaths of 14 people. Presenting the report Justice (Retd.) D. Hariparanthaman, who was part of the Inquest team, said police repression in Thoothukudi is continuing to this day, with the police intimidating van drivers and local people from coming to Chennai to participate in the release of the Inquest report. He appealed for a return to normalcy and an immediate end to the intimidation and arbitrary arrests of random people under “Open” FIRs [First Information Reports] filed against numerous unnamed people...

The report highlights the presence of sharp-shooters and snipers, the targeted killing of known anti-Sterlite protestors...and the failure of the administration and police to resolve the matter despite the long notice of 100 days given by protestors...

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Article
5 December 2018

India: Residents wary of midnight police raids connected to protest against Vedanta's copper smelting plant

Author: Dharani Thangavelu, Live Mint, India

"Residents wary of midnight police raids in Thoothukudi", 18 June 2018

...The people of Thoothukudi, where protests against Vedanta’s Sterlite Industries Ltd turned violent and 13 people were killed in police firing on 22 and 23 May, have been raising concerns over the midnight searches by the police over the last few weeks...

[The Superintendent of Police (SP)] said the police were arresting only those who were involved in rioting and arson on 22 and 23 May...A total of 248 people have been arrested so far...

[In June], six members of the Makkal Adhikaram [People's Power] organization were booked under the National Security Act. Terming the detentions as illegal, [the] executive director of People’s Watch, said that he has visited Geneva with his team to submit a report to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Human Rights.

While hearing a plea regarding the illegal custody of those who protested against Sterlite, [earlier in June], the Madurai bench of the Madras high court had directed the police to refrain from harassing those remanded for inquiry or their family members. Meanwhile...the Thoothukudi district collector...said following a report that there has been leakage in the stored containers kept inside the Sterlite Industries, a team of government officials...inspected the plant and have detected Sulphuric acid leak...

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Article
5 December 2018

India: UN experts condemn deadly police response to protest against Vedanta's copper smelting plant

Author: UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR)

"UN experts condemn deadly police response to protest against copper smelting plant in India, call for probe", 31 May 2018

UN human rights experts have condemned the apparent excessive and disproportionate use of lethal force by police against protesters calling for the closure of a copper smelting plant in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu over health and environmental concerns. The plant is run by Sterlite Copper, a business unit of Vedanta Ltd., which is a subsidiary of the UK-based company, Vedanta Resources.

Police opened fire on thousands of protesters on 22 May, reportedly killing 12 people and injuring dozens of others marching against the expansion of the heavily polluting copper smelter in the southern port city of Thoothukudi…

The experts noted that local and national judicial and administrative bodies have documented water contamination, air pollution and other forms of environmental degradation linked to the copper smelting plant and related activities. “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,” the experts said, calling on Sterlite Copper as well as its parent company, Vedanta Resources, to take immediate measures to mitigate pollution and to ensure access to safe water and health care... 

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Company response
19 June 2018

Vedanta's response regarding shootings of protesters

Thank you for your mail and for the opportunity to respond. The attached the document is a response through FAQs, including some data. This document is also available on our group website at http://www.vedantaresources.com/media/233176/faqs-tuticorin-june42018.pdf

Download the full document here

Article
8 June 2018

Environmental protesters in Tamil Nadu Shot Dead

Author: CIVICUS (South Africa)

Police fired live ammunition into a crowd of protestors in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu... killing at least 10 people.  One more person died after being hit by a rubber bullet on Wednesday 23rd... A report in The Hindu newspaper on 25th May claimed that at least eight of those killed had been deliberately targetted by police as organisers of the protest, with some, including a 17-year-old girl, shot at close range. The shooting happened on the 100th day of protests against the Sterlite Copper plant, which locals accuse of polluting the air and water supply. The plant... is currently seeking to expand its capacity despite the strong opposition from local activists. Following the latest clashes, the government shut down the Sterlite plant, which had not been operational for two months because of compliance problems with environmental regulations. Indian human rights activists spoke out and protested against the killings, resulting in a large number of detentions, including that of Henri Tiphagne, director of local civil society organisation People's Watch. Tiphagne and others were released later on 24th May. Sterlite Copper is owned by Vedanta, a mining and minerals conglomerate, which has operations across India and several other countries. 

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