Anti-Sterlite agitation in Thoothukudi: Rajinikanth summoned in January for his remarks

A judicial commission headed by retired justice Aruna Jagadeesan has summoned actor Rajinikanth to appear in front of it on 19 January 2021 in connection with its probe into the violence and police firing during the anti-Sterlite agitation in Thoothukudi district in May 2018. The incident, in which 13 civilians died and hundreds were injured and some of them grievously, caused a huge uproar.

“Summons have been issued today [Monday] to Rajinikanth to appear in the Thoothukudi camp for an enquiry at 10am,” said Arul Vadivel alias Sekar, the counsel for the commission. “We had briefly paused the probe between April and October due to the pandemic.”

Rajinkanth is being summoned by the one-woman commission for his remarks related to the firing. Immediately after the incident, Rajinikanth had visited the victims and their families in Thoothukudi. He said that anti-social elements had infiltrated the protest, turning it violent, which is why police had opened fire. In one of the rare occasions where he lost his cool in public, Rajinikanth added that Tamil Nadu would turn into a graveyard if people protested for everything.

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Activists had criticised Rajinikanth for his statement and the government-appointed commission had taken notice of it. Rajinikanth was previously summoned on February 25 to explain his comments on “anti-social elements” but he had sought an extension from appearing in person before the commission in Thoothukudi.

The commission has completed 23 rounds of enquiries so far with victims, families and eyewitnesses. Human rights defender and founder of Madurai-based People’s Watch Henri Tiphagne was one of the witnesses examined in February but his subsequent cross-examination was cancelled. “The commission’s role is to bring the truth out as soon as possible and they should have continued to probe through virtual meetings,” Tiphagne said. “We are facing elections without the committee’s report. Imagine the trauma of families who are awaiting justice.”

In May 2018, protesters were demanding the closure of Vedanta group’s Sterlite copper smelting plant which they said was causing severe pollution. The plant is currently shut and the Supreme Court will continue to hear a case related to its reopening from January 2021. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is also probing the case.

Rajinikanth has also announced that he would launch his political party in January 2021 to contest in the assembly elections in Tamil Nadu.

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