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The Thoothukudi massacre (also known as the Thoothukudi mass murder, Tuticorin massacre or Sterlite Protest Firing) took place on 22 May 2018 in Thoothukudi district, Tamil Nadu, India, when Tamil Nadu Police officers fired into a protest of 20,000 people.[5] The crowd marched towards the district collector's office. The protest is against the Sterlite Copper factory which is believed to cause environmental pollution.[5]

Thoothukudi Protests
Thoothukudi massacre is located in Tamil Nadu
Thoothukudi massacre
Location of Thoothukudi in India
LocationThoothukudi, Tamil Nadu
Coordinates8°47′03″N 78°05′57″E / 8.784117°N 78.099142°E / 8.784117; 78.099142Coordinates: 8°47′03″N 78°05′57″E / 8.784117°N 78.099142°E / 8.784117; 78.099142
Date22 May 2018 (UTC+5:30)
TargetProtesters of Sterlite Copper
Attack type
WeaponsL1A1 SLR battle rifle[1][2]
PerpetratorsTamil Nadu Police & Paramilitary forces
Protesters in large numbers take out a march against the Sterlite copper plant on May 22, 2018.


Sporadic protests have occurred in Thoothukudi district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu since 1999, directed against the Sterlite Copper smelting works. The factory is owned by Vedanta Limited, a subsidiary of Vedanta Resources.[6] Protestors oppose soil, water and air contamination caused by the factory.[7] An epidemiological study carried out by Tirunelveli Medical College in 2006–07 had found increased prevalence of respiratory diseases and ear, nose and throat (ENT) morbidity in the 5 km radius of Sterlite Industries. Their report blamed this on air pollution caused by the industry, Thermal power plants and automobiles – such as trucks and heavy vehicles – plying in this area.[8]

Iron content in the groundwater in the area of the plant has been found to be 17–20 times the allowable limit, causing additional health problems for the population already experiencing higher than average incidence of respiratory diseases.[9] The plant is less than 15 Km from the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve. More than 2.5 lakh (250,000) people live in the vicinity of the plant.

The Sterlite factory made headlines in 2013 due to an alleged gas leak which was not proven in court.[5] The plant was blamed for health issues observed in the area related to gas leakage. Following the alleged gas leak in March 2013, the then chief minister, the late J Jayalalithaa, ordered its closure. The company appealed to the National Green Tribunal, which overturned the government order. The state moved the Supreme Court against it, where the petition was still pending. The plant closed on March 27 of 2018, with the company citing a 15-day maintenance process.[5] The Supreme Court ordered the company to pay a 100-crore fine and the factory was temporarily shutdown by the pollution regulator.[10]

After Sterlite announced its plans to expand the plant, people around Kumarettiyapuram village protested for more than 100 days.[11] A major protest had been conducted peacefully till March 29, 2018. Some people alleged that the protests were organised by local churches which lured their parishioners to the assembly. A church bishop has denied this.[12]


On May 22, 2018, thousands of people began to march to the district collector's office to submit a petition when section 144 was on implementation. When section 144 is on impose more than 4 people gathering is unlawful but an unofficial release said 20,000 people took out a procession towards the district collectorate and the copper plant.[13] The police resorted to lathi charges against the protesters, suddenly they started throwing stones at the collectorate as well as the police officers.[14][15] Anticipating threat to their own lives, in response the police opened fire over the unruly mob.[16] Thirteen protesters were killed [17] including a 17-year old school student, and dozens were injured.[18][19]

FIRs filed in local police stations claimed that the order to shoot was issued by officers in the rank of deputy tahsildars. Some people pointed out that only Collectors have the authority to issue shooting orders.[20]

The Tamil Nadu government ordered a shutdown of Internet in the entire districts of Tuticorin, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari for five days after the firing.[19]


  • Thirumurugan Gandhi, the coordinator of May 17 Movement, took the issue to the 38th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Geneva in July 2018. On 9 August 2018, Thirumurugan Gandhi was detained by immigration authorities at Bangalore Airport on his return to India and charged under Section 124 A (sedition), 153 A (1) and 153 (b) of IPC for speaking about the Thoothukudi firings at the UNHRC. Court, later, refused to remand him under judicial custody as it found the charges are baseless.[21][22]
  • Indian National Congress party president Rahul Gandhi described it as "state-sponsored terrorism".[23]
  • Seeman condemned the massacre, and his political party held a rally in Tirunelveli condemning the shooting.[24]
  • Kamal Haasan was one of the first political leaders to arrive to Tuticorin to see the injured in the hospital, after the shootings.
  • Vaiko and M.K.Stalin demanded investigations into the shootings.[25]
  • National Human Rights Commission of India demanded investigation into the killings.[26] It asked its Director General (Investigation) to send a team headed by an SP to visit the spot and conduct an inquiry.[27]
  • Tamils and Tamil diaspora across the world including United States, Canada, Europe, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Australia held protests against the killing.
  • In support of the protests The UK's Opposition, Labour Party, has called for Vedanta to be delisted from the London Stock Exchange. John McDonnell, the UK's Shadow Chancellor, said removing Vedanta Resources from the London financial markets would prevent reputational damage from the "rogue" company which has been operating "illegal" mining concerns for years. "After the massacre of the protestors this week, regulators must now take action. Vedanta must be immediately delisted from the London Stock Exchange to remove its cloak of respectability, restore confidence in the governance of the Stock Exchange, and prevent further reputational damage to London's financial markets from this rogue corporation," McDonnell said in a statement .[28]
  • Actor Rajinikanth said "anti-social elements" in the crowd had to be "dealt with an iron hand" and also stated that Tamil Nadu will become a graveyard if the people of the state continue to protest.[29][30] Also, his anger reaction on media was criticized and his statements were brought negative impact on social media.[31][32] Following his controversial statements regarding the Thoothukudi shooting scandal, the Tamil activist groups in Norway and Switzerland banned the release of Rajinikanth's Kaala in Norway and Switzerland by the scheduled world wide release date as of 7 June.[33][34][35] The Tamil diaspora groups in Norway and Switzerland announced that they would not release the films of actors in the future who deliberately hurt the feelings and attitudes of Tamil people following the comments from Rajinikanth on Tamils.[36] However, the ban was later on lifted and the film was released with a week delay resp. a day before the scheduled worldwide release in Switzerland and Norway, respectively.[37][38]

A video released by the environmental activist a few days before he went missing from a train while travelling to Madurai from Chennai, S. Mugilan says the "shooting was well planned".[39][40]

Government responseEdit

On 28 May 2018, the Sterlite factory was sealed by an order of the Tamil Nadu Environmental pollutions and Forests Department.[41] The next day, Tamil Nadu's State Industries Promotion Corporation (SIPCOT) announced that it would take back 342.22 acres of land that it had given for expansion of the facility.[27] Many leaders including M.K.Stalin, Seeman and Anbumani Ramadoss criticised the sealing order, saying that it would not stand up to legal scrutiny since the government had given no reason for shutting down the factory.[42][43]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "தூத்துக்குடியில் 11 பேரின் உயிரை குடித்த துப்பாக்கி இதுதான்".
  2. ^ "The massacre in Thoothukudi: Intelligence failure or deliberate assault?".
  3. ^ "Anti-Sterlite protests: 15 dead, 102 injured in Thoothukudi; electricity supply to Sterlite Industries cut off".
  4. ^ "Anti-Sterlite protests: 13 dead, 102 injured in Thoothukudi; electricity supply to Sterlite Industries cut off".
  5. ^ a b c d "Reasons behind Killings". The Financial Express.
  6. ^ "Why hundreds of Tamils won't quit protests against Vedanta's Sterlite". Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Elango, S. (Oct 2008). Health status and Epidemiological study around 5 km radius of Sterlite Industries (India) Limited, Thoothukudi (PDF). Tirunelveli: Tirunelveli Medical College. p. 106.
  9. ^ "Sterlite – here's the proof: How the copper plant impacts health of Thoothukudi people". The News Minute. 2018-04-01. Retrieved 2018-05-22.
  10. ^ Venkatesan, J. (2013-04-02). "SC slaps Rs. 100 cr. penalty on Sterlite for pollution". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  11. ^ "குமரெட்டியாபுரத்தைத் தொடர்ந்து ஸ்டெர்லைட் ஆலைக்கு எதிராகத் திரண்ட மற்றொரு கிராமம்". Vikatan (in Tamil). 2018-04-01. Retrieved 2018-05-22.
  12. ^ "Catholics among 11 dead as police fire on India protest". Retrieved 2019-04-30.
  13. ^ "Tuticorin police massacre leaves 11 dead, christian priest Fr.Rev.Leo jayaseelan in hospital who was responsible for the little children and housewives from the church to larcilate the protests apart from the Urban naxals like "Makkal Athigaram"| UCAN India". Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  14. ^ "A 6-km stir that ended in bloodshed". 2018-05-23. Retrieved 2018-05-23.
  15. ^ "Police targeted the protesters; shot at head". 2018-05-24. Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  16. ^ "Tamil Nadu Police fired from assault rifles on anti-Sterlite protesters, heard saying at least one should die| Zee News India". Retrieved 2018-06-02.
  17. ^
  18. ^ "She wanted to be a lawyer, her dreams lie in a box". 2018-05-24. Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  19. ^ a b "Sterlite protest: Tamil Nadu orders internet suspension for five days in three southern districts". New Indian Express. 23 May 2018. Retrieved 9 July 2018.
  20. ^ Pon Vasanth, B. A (29 May 2018). "Three officers in the rank of deputy tahsildar issued firing orders in Thoothukudi, say FIRs". The Hindu. Madurai: The Hindu Group. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  21. ^ "Court refuses to detain activist Thirumurugan Gandhi". The News Minute. 2018-08-10. Retrieved 2018-08-28.
  22. ^ "Thirumurugan Gandhi held in Bengaluru for UN speech on police firing in Thoothukudi". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 2018-08-28.
  23. ^ "Anti-Sterlite protest: Gunning down 9 people by police in Tamil Nadu is state-sponsored terrorism, says Rahul Gandhi". Zee News. 2018-05-22. Retrieved 2018-05-22.
  24. ^ "Naam Thamizhar Katchi leader Seeman condemns gun firing at Thoothukudi". Retrieved 2018-05-31.
  25. ^
  26. ^ "Indian police accused of killing at least 11 protesters".
  27. ^ a b "T.N. to take back land allotted to Sterlite". The Hindu. Chennai / New Delhi: The Hindu Group. 30 May 2018. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  28. ^ "UK Opposition wants Vedanta delisted on London Stock Exchange".
  29. ^ "Rajinikanth: Anger after actor justifies deadly police firing".
  30. ^ "Rajinikanth blames anti-social elements for Sterlite protest".
  31. ^ "Superstar Rajinikanth apologises for losing cool at media interaction". Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  32. ^ "Rajinikanth's speech earns him negative image on social media?". Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  33. ^ "நார்வேயில் காலா படத்தை திரையிட மறுப்பு– News18 Tamil". News18 Tamil. Retrieved 2018-06-03.
  34. ^ "ரஜினியின் ஒரு நாள் பேச்சால் நார்வே, சுவிஸ் நாட்டில் காலா படத்துக்கு தடை - Samayam Tamil". Samayam Tamil (in Tamil). 2018-06-02. Retrieved 2018-06-03.
  35. ^ "Foreign nations ban Rajini's 'Kaala'? - Tamil Movie News –". Retrieved 2018-06-03.
  36. ^ S, Ashwiniya (2018-06-01). "நோர்வேயை தொடர்ந்து சுவிஸ்ஸிலும் 'காலா' தடை??". TAMIL NEWS. Retrieved 2018-06-03.
  37. ^ "Wochenprogramm" (PDF). Top Kino (in German). 2018-06-11. Archived from the original on 2018-06-19. Retrieved 2018-06-19.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  38. ^ "Kaala (Tamil)". Filmweb (in Norwegian). 2018-06-01. Archived from the original on 2018-06-19. Retrieved 2018-06-19.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  39. ^ "Activist Goes Missing Hours After Incriminating Top Cops in Thoothukudi Massacre". The Wire. Retrieved 2019-03-20.
  40. ^ TuNo (2019-02-08), Arsonists - Sterlite - The Hidden Truth - கொளுத்தியது யார்? ஸ்டெர்லைட் - மறைக்கப்பட்ட உண்மைகள், retrieved 2019-03-20
  41. ^ Rohit, T. K. (28 May 2018). "Sterlite Copper to be permanently closed, says Tamil Nadu government". The Hindu. Chennai: The Hindu Group. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  42. ^ "G.O. won't stand up to legal scrutiny: Stalin". The Hindu. Chennai: The Hindu Group. 30 May 2018. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  43. ^ "G.O. to close Sterlite plant inadequate". The Hindu. Chennai: The Hindu Group. 30 May 2018. Retrieved 30 May 2018.