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Justice delivered in movies is justice denied in real life, says Thoothukudi

May 22, 2018, was a day marked with boiling angst, protests, slogans, and rallies in Thoothukudi. But, the events of the day culminated into a tragic and horrific conclusion, gunshots! According to various reports, 13 out of the thousands of protesters who took to the streets against the planned expansion of the Sterlite plant was shot dead by the Police. The reports also reveal that more than 100 protesters have been wounded.


As a precautionary measure to prevent more violence, the Tamil Nadu government suspended internet services in Thoothukudi, Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli districts.  A compensation of Rs 10 lakh each for the protesters killed and Rs 3 lakh each for the wounded was announced. The Chief Minister also ordered setting up of a one-member commission of inquiry.

While Thoothukudi calms down and public life returns to normality, the unfortunate and absurd occurrence, that a force accountable for safeguarding the life and dignity of citizens shot bullets straight at them, raises some serious questions about the deliverance of justice in our times. While social media platforms are abuzz with questions like had the police followed standard crowd control protocols in Thoothukudi? Haven’t the firearms a tool used as the last resort? And, most importantly, who is responsible for the lives of protestors?

The protests in Thoothukudi trace back as far as 1998, when Sterlite Copper, a business unit of Vedanta Limited, set up a copper factory there. Complaints like breathlessness, coughing, and irritation in the eyes and throat have been reported since 1999. The inhabitants of the area are accusing the plant of gas leaks and contamination of the groundwater with arsenic, lead, selenium, aluminium, and copper.

As always, Kollywood stood up and raised their voice for the protesters. A day after the firing, Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan condemned the authorities, citing the bullet wounds in the gut and shoulders of the protesters. Simbu turned up with a video in which he delivered an emotionally packed English speech for the anti-Sterlite protesters. In a heartwarming gesture at the promotional event of his movie, “The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir,” in Paris, Dhanush requested the audience to observe one minute of silence for the victims of Thoothukudi. As angst and protest fumes among movie stars, the unfortunate incident also sheds light on a saddening anomaly between movies and real life. It is the painful reality of justice delivered to the common people in popular movies becomes justice denied for the same populace in real life.


People have been driven through plights like Thoothukudi in movies like Kaththi. But, a saviour arrives to bargain justice for them and ensures the inevitable catharsis at the climax. What Thoothukudi protesters lacked was a saviour figure as the protesters have in movies. It's high time to draw the dividing line between the reality perpetuated by movies and the ground reality in which helpless people are shot down by their own cops. 

This social and political dilemma also disenchants the emotional celebrity reactions on social media platforms. The reality promoted by them miserably failed to deliver justice to the vulnerable population in the face of corporate greed. After the Thoothukudi shootouts, no filmmaker can claim injustice is a fault of a bunch of sordid men and all we need is a perfect saviour to replace them to drive the so-called pitch-perfect system straight.

We need more movies, filmmakers, and celebrities who point their finger at the system and say it loud, “who is responsible for the lives of the protesters?” Is it just a bunch of men, or a rotten system? Luckily, we got to see Aruvi, Iraivi, and Visaraanai along this line!

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