CHENNAI (Reuters) - Indian police are only arresting people involved in protests against a copper smelter owned by Vedanta Resources where there is videographed evidence of them indulging in “anti-social” activities, a senior state minister told Reuters.
More than 100 people have been arrested, some in early morning and late night raids, since police opened fire on a crowd of protesters in southern India, killing 13, and some residents have complained they are being unfairly targeted.
Many of those picked up in and around the port city of Thoothukudi have since been bailed, but the wave of arrests highlights the tensions that continue to fester despite the Tamil Nadu state government’s order to permanently shut down the smelter, on environmental grounds, in the wake of the May 22 shootings.
“We have to take action against anti-social elements who indulged in violence and which has been captured on CCTV cameras,” D Jayakumar, a senior minister in the state, said.
“The police are not going to go to your house, or a normal person’s house,” he told Reuters in an interview.
Family members and friends of three people who were arrested by the police in early morning raids told Reuters last week that they had not taken part in any violence.
State Minister Jayakumar also said there was no question of engaging with London-listed Vedanta on reopening the copper smelter, and added that the shutdown would not have an impact on investment in the state.
“Our stand is clear: the smelter will remain shut. An isolated incident like this is not going to hit investments in the state, as we have good infrastructure and provide attractive tax incentives,” Jayakumar said.
Tamil Nadu, home to more than 70 million people, is one of India’s most industrialized states, sometimes called the “Detroit of Asia”. Companies including BMW, Daimler, Hyundai, Ford, Nissan and Renault have factories in the state.
Vedanta told Reuters in a statement last month that the smelter shutdown would impact “prospective investor sentiments for investment in the state”, and would lead to a rise in local copper prices.
The company is preparing an appeal against the state government’s order to permanently shut the plant, sources have said, which could lead to a long-drawn out legal battle.
Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Alex Richardson