Families of anti-Sterlite protesters killed in Tuticorin police firing urge Stalin government to act against guilty cops

'My daughter was killed by police firing at the Tuticorin protest. Was 18 an age to die?' Vanitha, her mother, told South First.

ByUmar Sharieef

Published Aug 26, 2022 | 9:30 PMUpdatedAug 26, 2022 | 9:30 PM

Family members of Snowlin and other victims

The families of the victims and activists have urged the ruling DMK government to take action against police officials responsible for the killing of 13 anti-Sterlite protesters on 22 May, 2018, the 100th day of protests against the Vedanta group copper smelter unit in Thoothukudi (formerly Tuticorin).

Their demands came after the report of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) led by Justice Aruna Jagadeesan was leaked and some of the key findings were published in Frontline. The commission submitted the full report to the government on 21 May, 2022, but it is not yet public.

Saying the report has emerged as their hope to punish the killers, the families of the victims want the DMK to table the report in the Assembly and let the public know the truth.

Snowlin, 18, wanted to be a lawyer

Vanitha (54), mother of Snowlin (18), who was shot dead by the police during the anti-Sterlite protests in Thoothukudi, said, “Make the report public soon and let the people of Tamil Nadu know what happened during the protest. I have faith in the ruling government, and I believe it will take steps to get us justice.”

Snowlin had completed Class 12 and wanted to become a lawyer, Vanitha told South First.

“It has been years since she left, and even now I sit in the house praying to God that Snowlin and others who lost their lives and were wounded during the protest get justice,” she said.

Vanitha broke down during the phone call with South First, and said Snowlin was very friendly to everyone in her class and had the habit of journaling.

“She used to write a diary. Poor me, I didn’t know about it when she was alive. I read her diary. My child had written a lot about her father and me, expressing her love. It made me feel so sad,” she said.

After her daughter’s death, Vanitha said she stopped wearing jewellery.

“I don’t want to wear gold and be the same old me. Her death has affected me in many ways, and I’m like a widow now,” she said with a heavy heart.

Vanitha has two grandchildren, with whom she spends her day these days. Her husband, 55-year-old Jackson, does fishing to make a living.

Vanitha met a few political leaders in Tamil Nadu last year and sought help from them, and a few even promised to inform Chief Minister MK Stalin of her plight.

Senior cops named in report

Godwin (28), elder brother of Snowlin, told South First that police officials involved in the firing on the anti-Sterlite protestors in Thoothukudi are still free.

“Some of them are here while a few got a promotion. It is saddening to watch them walk freely and boast about it,” he said.

Godwin works on a ship and is on vacation. “My mother is still suffering from our loss. She has no idea how to get away from the memories as she is always inside the house,” he said.

The Justice Aruna Jagadeesan Commission report has asked the government to take departmental and criminal action against the top cops repsonsilble.

Many of the police officials named in the report have been transferred and promoted.

Sterlitejpg

A picture from 22 May, 2018, when the anti-Sterlite protest turned violent. (Creative Commons)

Princeton, one of the wounded anti-Sterlite protesters, told South First that he works as a junior assistant in the district collector’s office.

The then AIADMK government led by Edappadi K Palaniswamy (EPS) provided him with this job as compensation.

He lost his leg during the protest and struggled a lot to make ends meet without a prosthetic. He blames EPS and his governance for the tragedy.

“Not just the police, Edappadi is also responsible for our loss. The present government must punish the police and him for their action,” he said.

Mackton (26) echoed him. This brother of Snowlin works as a junior assistant in the district’s Revenue Department. He also urged the DMK to take up the issue soon.

‘Withdraw cases against protestors’

Fatima, an activist from Thoothukudi, told South First that the then AIADMK government had filed cases against the protesters. She wants them all withdrawn.

“There were many cases registered against the anti-Sterlite protesters during the regime of Edappadi Palaniswami, including against me. We urge the DMK government to withdraw all of them,” she said.

“The Constitution allows us to protest for our rights, and we have the right to dissent; then why should we be booked?” she asked.

Reacting to the report by the Justice Aruna Jagadeesan Commission, Fatima said, “I welcome the report. It has named the police officials, which is excellent. The government must ensure that the law punishes the killers.”