The state-sponsored Jallikattu event at Alanganallur in Madurai district was called off after protesters picketed the main venue on Sunday, demanding a more “permanent solution” to thwart the Supreme Court-imposed ban.
Sources said chief minister O Panneerselvam, who was supposed to inaugurate the bull-taming event, could not even enter the venue because protesters had blocked the road with vehicles. Eventually, he decided to return to Chennai by the 1.20pm flight from Madurai airport.
Though the government was mulling the feasibility of shifting the event to a suitable spot at Kovilpatti in Dindigul district, they gave up after protests broke out there too.
Protesters said they were not happy with the ordinance, which they said was open to legal scrutiny.
They demanded a more permanent solution to ensure that Jallikattu was held without any hassles year after year. “We will not move an inch from here,” said a protester at Alanganallur, before news of the cancellation arrived. “The government may beat us up, or even try to kill us. But we are not afraid.”
Protesters parked vehicles on the road leading to the Jallikattu venue – blocking access – and prevented the organisers from going ahead with the preparations. Madurai collector Veera Raghava Rao and other officials tried to reason with the protesters, and police were kept on standby to prevent violence from erupting.
Officials said efforts to negotiate with the protesters came to naught because the agitation seemed “headless” in nature. The government is expected to chart its future strategy after Panneerselvam returns to Chennai later in the day.
Rajashekhar, president of the Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Pervai (Jallikattu federation) in Madurai, expressed helplessness over the situation. “With villagers in such a mood, it was impossible to hold Jallikattu at Alanganallur. It’s unfortunate, but the people are adamant,” he said.
Another Jallikattu organiser told Hindustan Times on the condition of anonymity that certain elements were “changing goalposts every day”, despite getting an opportunity to hold the event. “They are negating the efforts of the Tamil people over the last four years,” he said.
However, Jallikattu celebrations were reported at several places across the state – such as Pudupatti village in Thanjavur district, where 500 youngsters tackled as many as 100 bulls. Ten people were adjudged as the winners, and awarded prizes.
(With inputs from Aditya Iyer)