The six-day largely peaceful stir over Jallikattu, the Tamil sport of bull taming, turned violent on Monday even as the Tamil Nadu assembly moved swiftly and passed a bill replacing an ordinance that worked around a ban on the sport.
The situation became volatile after an early morning crackdown on protesters, which left close to 90 police personnel injured by day end. A senior police official told PTI that 90% of the protesters at Marina beach in Chennai, the epicentre of the agitation, predominantly by students and youth, had vacated the area by late evening and that normalcy was being restored.
Reports said most protestors in other parts of the state like Madurai, Erode and Coimbatore were either evicted or had left on their own, heeding an appeal by police.
However, the crackdown had a ripple effect in the city and elsewhere, where normal life was affected, with protesters staging road blocks and state transport buses being withdrawn at many places.
The government moved quickly to get the amendment bill to replace the Jallikattu ordinance promulgated two days ago, passed in the assembly in the evening session.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment), Act, 2017 – or PCA Act – piloted by chief minister O Panneerselvam, was passed by voice vote with the support of opposition DMK and other parties.
It said the “Government of Tamil Nadu has decided to exempt Jallikattu from the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act”.
On an eventful day, police set on an early morning crackdown at Marina beach after issuing an advisory asking students to leave.
They said students’ protests had been successful as Jallikattu was held on Sunday following the state issuing the ordinance.
Earlier in the day, protesters fought pitched battles with police at several areas, especially around Marina Beach from where thousands were evicted.
They blocked roads at various parts of the city with the week-long agitation taking a violent turn.
Traffic was thrown out of gear as the agitators took to the streets, with some attacking policemen and their vehicles.
Chennai police commissioner S George said that police had only targeted some miscreants in the crowd who were causing trouble. At a media briefing on Monday evening, the commissioner said, “We could see some anti-social elements enter through the sea route to foment trouble at Marina beach. From early morning, we made appeals to the students to disperse, but to no avail. It was only after that the police began evicting them.”
“Minimum force was used to evict the protesters,” he added.
The protesters tried to break police cordon and also indulged in stone pelting. Around 95 policemen were injured and 51 vehicles set afire in many parts of Chennai and the state.
Police fired teargas shells and resorted to lathicharge at some places where protesters pelted stones.
“Sporadic protests were happening in different parts of Tamil Nadu and we are controlling them,” the top cop said, adding that around 40 people have been held in Chennai.
Protesters had gone on a rampage, setting vehicles on fire at a few places, including in front of Ice House Police Station near the beach.
(With inputs from PTI)