Thoothukudi Violence: Hundreds of Midnight Arrests Made without Evidence, Say Sources

Chennai: A one-man inquiry commission headed by retired Madras High Court judge Aruna Jagadesan has prepared an interim report on the Thoothukudi violence that led to the loss of 13 lives and will soon submit the same to the Edappadi K Palaniswamy government.

Sources privy to the developments said the commission has stated that after speaking to more than 300 witnesses in 14 sittings, it has been observed that midnight arrests of hundreds of people following the violence by police happened without proper evidence and due procedure.

“After the shooting incident, persons in the age group of 18 and 30 were arrested from different parts of the Thoothukudi town in the midnight without any material to implicate them. The police officers resorted to arrest of persons whimsically and implicated them in various crime numbers and in the said exercise, miserably failed and omitted to follow the procedure contemplated by law and there is strong evidences of brutal attack on the arrested persons and failed to give proper medical treatment,” the report said.

The commission has further urged the government to withdraw the huge number of cases filed against locals in a bid to create an atmosphere of goodwill.

“It is recommended to the government to withdraw the cases (244 cases against 428 individuals) and create an atmosphere of goodwill respecting the feelings and emotions of the public. It is recommended that no-objection certificates are issued to those arrested persons detained illegally against whom cases have been registered in various police stations to enable them to pursue their higher education/overseas employment or any kind of employment to eke out their livelihood, as the case may be,” the report added

The commission has also suggested a compensation of Rs.1.5 lakh to each of the arrested persons who were deprived of their “personal liberty and subject to agony of humiliation and ill-treatment and for the injuries inflicted on their persons by the police”.

Protests against Vedanta’s Sterlite copper unit in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi town took a violent turn on May 22 with at least 13 people being killed in alleged police firing. Thirty others were left injured as a mob of 20,000 people went on a rampage demanding the polluting copper unit be shut down.

After the protests, there were arrests. Hundreds were picked up on charges of participating, and in some cases, instigating the agitations. The state lawyers’ forum swung into action to apply for bail at the district courts to free those arrested. Till date, Thoothukudi remains a vitiated ground.

The one-man commission is yet to look into the incident on what led to the firing in Thoothukudi and sources say the commission will take time to prepare a final report on the incident.

Meanwhile, the CBI on Friday submitted before the Madras High Court bench its status report on the action taken on the two cases filed during the protest against the Sterlite plant in Thoothukudi, news agency PTI reported.

Officials said the report was submitted in a sealed cover and contained details of the progress made in investigation in the two cases. The first case was against the protestors who indulged in widespread violence and the other against police for opening fire at them on May 22 last year, killing 13 people.