At least 4,000 protesters, mostly students, continued their demand for the removal of the ban on Jallikattu - Tamil Nadu’s traditional bull taming sport - at Chennai’s Marina Beach on Wednesday.
The protestors at the beach converged on Tuesday following an agitation at Alanganallur in Madurai, the epicentre of the current wave of protests. They are also seeking a ban on animal rights body People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
Protests continued unabated at many places in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday. People even defied the Supreme Court ban by holding Jallikattu in a village near Tiruchirapalli in the morning even before police could realise what was happening.
The state government is finding it difficult to deal with the largely leaderless protests that are being fuelled by social media.
On Tuesday night and early on Wednesday, two state ministers – Jayakumar and K Pandiarajan – held talks with the protesting students and assured the government’s commitment to hold the bull taming sport in the state.
The students, however, declared that unless chief minister O Panneerselvam gives an assurance about holding Jallikattu they would not budge from the site. Later, it was conveyed that the chief minister would issue a statement.
A student said a decision to withdraw the protests will be taken only after the chief minister’s statement.
If anything, the protests have only spread to other cities as well with the common demand that central government and state government work out a formula to enable holding of Jallikattu within this month.
At many places such as Alanganallur protesters did not allow the ruling AIADMK legislator S Manickam to enter the arena but let DMK MLA P Moorthy to participate in the protests.
More than 200 people were taken into custody on Monday night after they held protests at Alanganallur village demanding the lifting of the ban.
DMK working president MK Stalin joined the protests from day one and his party has held state-wide protests seeking an ordinance from the central government and also a ban on PETA.
The Jallikattu protests seem to have turned into an apolitical and leaderless movement, with students coming out onto the streets on their own. “We will not attend classes till the government comes out with a clear cut stand on holding Jallikattu,” a student said.
Another student at Marina beach said, “It is Jallikattu now and we will move onto other issues as well, whether it is farmers’ suicide, Cauvery waters or fishermen’s issue”.
Observers fear the protests could snowball into a bigger movement on the lines of the anti-Hindi agitation in the 1970s. Police sources said that the sentiments expressed at these protests gatherings are anti-central government and are being fuelled by some fringe groups.
Meanwhile, reports of protests poured in from Salem, Nagapattinam, Namakkal, Madurai, Coimbatore, Tirupur, Thanjavur, Tiruchirapalli and many other cities, where people from neighbouring villages congregated.
Last week, the Supreme Court refused to advance its judgment on a clutch of petitions challenging a notification by the Centre allowing Jallikattu this year.
The apex court had banned Jallikattu on grounds of animal cruelty in 2014 – drawing protests from political parties across the state. In November last year, SC dismissed the state government’s plea for a review of its judgment.
Die-hard Jallikattu supporters along with major political parties in Tamil Nadu have been demanding an ordinance for conducting Jallikattu after the Supreme Court ban.
Hundreds of people have been arrested in the last few days across the state for holding Jallikattu defying the Supreme Court’s order.