'That was triggering stone-throwing.'
'So if the cops were not so visible, the chances of any violence is reduced.'
The police action in Tuticorin, in which 10 people were shot dead on Tuesday and one more was killed on Wednesday, has triggered worldwide condemnation, with the government shunting out the collector and superintendent of police. But things are far from normal in the southern city.
The mood in Tuticorin is tense and there is a general sense among the people that only the army can restore peace as the police have lost their confidence, and are in fact viewed with hostility.
A housewife from the coastal city, who attended a marriage near the road to Tiruchendur, says "There were very few guests. We ate quickly and came back. There has been no violence on the Tiruchendur road, but there are hate messages on the walls."
"That means the rioters were here and they might come back. We are staying at home, all shops are closed."
"I faced no problems on the road, but there were no shops open," a restaurant owner who drove 35 km from Tuticorin on the Tiruchendur road to his village told this correspondent.
"Everything was closed. Late evening a few shops in the villages opened owing to pressure from people who needed to eat."
One visible change on Thursday, May 24, is the reduced police presence all over the city, with the men in khaki posted only at the trouble spots that erupted on Tuesday.
"A district court judge advised them to withdraw the cops as their presence was aggravating the situation," a retired teacher said.
"People hate cops at the moment and that was triggering the stone-throwing. So if the cops were not so visible, the chances of any violence is reduced."
In the meantime, environmental activists obtained a stay on the construction of the second Sterlite plant from the Madurai bench of the Madras high court.
The truth is that Sterlite does not have enough land to erect its second plant, and had asked SIPCOT, the Tamil Nadu government department meant to promote industry, for land.
SIPCOT was on a land acquiring spree when it was halted in its tracks by the environment ministry.
The work on Sterlite's second plant can start only after this clearance comes through, following which SIPCOT will have to acquire the land and then lease it to the company.
Even then, Sterlite will have to procure a plethora of clearances before actual work can begin at the plant.
Another inconsequential move was to terminate the electricity to the factory.
Sterlite has two captive power plants, whose capacity is enough to meet its requirements. So the lack of the state electricity board's power supply does not make any difference to Sterlite.
Besides, the factory does not have the consent to operate and has remained shut since March. So electricity connection or no does not make a difference.
A protest march in Chennai against the police action has been organised for Thursday, and one participant said, "The police will let us walk for a few minutes and then arrest us, bundle us into buses and take us to the nearest marriage hall. They will let us go in the evening after registering cases against the most vocal among us."