The Indian Federation of Trade Unions condemns the ongoing severe state repression in Tuticorin where on 22nd and 23rd May 2018 police firings on protestors against the Sterlite plant resulted in the martyrdom of 13 people. House to house searches without warrants, indiscriminate arrests are on. Now the Tamil Nadu govt is also extending the repression to supporters of the people’s movement. In this context IFTU condemns the arrest from Chennai Airport on the midnight of 20-21 June 2018 of Advocate Vanchinathan, State Co-ordinator of People’s Rights Protection Centre and practising law at the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court and also legal advisor to the Anti Sterlite Struggle Committee. He has been arrested in crime no 190 of 2018 Sipcot police station/sec 147, 148, 188, 353, 506(2) and sec 3 of TTPPDL Act in connection with the Tuticorin incident. It is contemptible that while maximum support has been given to the corporate, people’s struggle is being ruthlessly crushed and public people and intellectuals who have stood by the genuine struggle are being targeted by the Tamil Nadu govt. On the other hand, while the strength of the movement has forced closure of the polluting plant, the corporate is now raising the bogey of ‘’threat’’ of pollution by stored acid to people’s lives to press for reopening of the plant, restoration of electricity connection and right to re-employ manpower!
A joint team of IFTU-AIKMS-POW(AP) had visited Tuticorin on 29th May 2018 after the firing and had recorded the saga of the effects of pollution from the Sterlite plant on common people and in the area, the fightback of the people and the barbaric repression on 22nd May 2018 by the State Govt. The IFTU demands that the repression on people be stopped immediately, false cases withdrawn, the company not be allowed to function on any pretext and the plant be closed down immediately. We especially demand the immediate release of Adv. Vanchinathan and the lifting of all false charges against him. A letter to this effect is being sent to the Tamil Nadu Govt. from the National Committee.
In various parts of the country, struggles are on against the destruction of environment and the threat to people’s lives by polluting industries being set up by govt-corporate nexus in the name of development. The struggle against the Sterlite plant in Tuticorin is part of such struggles; infact the same Sterlite company was earlier driven away from Maharashtra and Vedanta from Nayamgiri (Odisha). In all these struggles, govts. and corporate raise the false issues of development and ‘’jobs of workers’’, manipulating workers’ issue as a weapon against the people as though it is necessary to build only anti people industries. It is also an all India phenomena that intellectuals and public people supporting and active in people’s struggles are being targeted like criminals, in an effort to frighten them into silence. This trend is extremely dangerous and seeks to silence the intellectuals from speaking out on the policies of the rulers. The current arrest of Adv. Valnchinathan is a case in point.
22nd June 2018 will mark one month of the police firing in Tuticorin. We call on all IFTU units to issue statements against the continuing repression and to demand immediate release of Adv. Vanchinathan.
Com B. Pradeep (General Secretary) Com. Aparna (President)
Indian Federation of Trade Unions
Issued on 21st June 2018