People organised the bull-taming sport Jallikattu in several parts of Tamil Nadu on Friday and protesters took to the streets as the state united to defy a Supreme Court ban on the popular event of the Pongal celebrations.
Sources said revellers clashed with police who tried to stop Jallikattu events in Madurai and Cuddalore while students formed a chain at Chennai’s famous Marina Beach to protest the ban, which has turned into a political controversy.
The apex court had on Thursday refused to advance its judgment on a clutch of petitions challenging a notification by the Centre allowing Jallikattu this year.
Police also dismantled temporary structures built for the sport at Kalathangal in Madurai and dispersed the people. But three ruling AIADMK legislators present at the venue are quoted to have said that “people will defy the ban and take part in Jallikattu”.
Madurai is one of the main Jallikattu venues that draw in huge numbers of domestic and foreign tourists.
Chief minister O Panneerselvam recently said, “we would not back out of our efforts to hold Jallikattu this year”, a statement seen as his government’s tacit support of the sport which has even elicited support from popular actors Rajnikaanth and Kamal Hassan.
The ruling party’s support is also seen as a rebuttal of the opposition DMK’s allegation that the state government did not do anything for lifting the ban.
A senior AIADMK leader said even if the court passes strictures later, by that time Pongal would have been celebrated and people would be happy.
With local body elections due shortly, political parties are keen to be seen on the right side of the divide.
DMK activists protested near the Chennai collector’s office in the presence of MK Stalin, the party’s working president, and Kanimozhi, an MP.
“Jallikattu is our tradition, but the Centre and state government have failed to get us the permission to conduct it,” said Stalin.
A political analyst said the defiance was also symbolic of Tamilian anger over the perceived injustice on several issues – from Cauvery water sharing, arrest of fishermen and an assault on language and culture and traditions.
Naam Tamizhar Katchi, a fringe Tamil party, held a Jallikattu event on Thursday at Cuddalore and gave out prizes to winners. Police later arrested 35-odd people.
“The ban and refusal of the BJP government at the Centre to issue an ordinance is nothing but an assault on Tamil pride and an attempt to destroy Tamil culture and tradition,” said K Pandimuthu, a Jallikattu organiser in Cuddalore.
People also vented their anger at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) which along with the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations urged the president and prime minister not to issue any ordinance to allow Jallikattu as it may be “considered unconstitutional and an inappropriate use of power”.