Jallikattu protesters stand firm: ‘We’ll go home only after SC lifts ban’ | india-news | Hindustan Times
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Jallikattu protesters stand firm: ‘We’ll go home only after SC lifts ban’

The mass Jallikattu protests on Chennai’s Marina beach showed no sign of dying out on Friday, even after Tamil Nadu chief minister O Panneerselvam promised that a draft ordinance aimed at ensuring the conduct of the traditional bull-taming sport has been submitted to the home ministry.

india Updated: Jan 20, 2017 19:08 IST
Aditya Iyer
Jallikattu
People attend a protest demanding to reverse a Supreme Court ban on the traditional bull-taming contests, known as Jallikattu, at the Marina beach in Chennai.(Reuters Photo)

The mass Jallikattu protests on Chennai’s Marina beach showed no sign of dying out on Friday, even after Tamil Nadu chief minister O Panneerselvam promised that a draft ordinance aimed at ensuring the conduct of the traditional bull-taming sport has been submitted to the home ministry.

“It is very likely that Jallikattu will be held in a day or two,” the chief minister told mediapersons in New Delhi on Friday. “I urge the protesters to end their demonstrations.” The Supreme Court has agreed not to pronounce its verdict on Jallikattu for one week in the wake of the large-scale protests.

Panneerselvam’s plea, however, fell on deaf ears.

“We will head home only after seeing the bulls cross the vaadivasal (the gate through which the bovines enter),” fumed S Balakrishnan, a protester, even as hundreds around him chanted: “Tamizhan endru sollu da, thalai nimirthu nillu da (Tell them you are Tamilian, stand with your head held high!)”

Vidya Iyer, a college student from Chennai, said the state government has not kept any of its promises. “The failure of our political leaders to fight for our rights is the reason we are all here. Words won’t end our protest, only concrete action will,” he added.

Over 10,000 people thronged Chennai’s iconic beach on the fourth day of a peaceful protest that has captured the attention of politicians and mediapersons alike.

Sources in the ruling AIADMK said they are placing considerable pressure on the home ministry to approve the draft ordinance. As per procedure, the draft bill will then be handed to President Pranab Mukherjee for his approval, following which it will be promulgated by Tamil Nadu governor Vidyasagar Rao.

A senior leader in the ruling party said the ordinance would be passed “either on Friday evening, or Saturday morning at the earliest”. No obstacles were expected, he added.

But the mood at Marina remained defiant even after the chief minister assured protesters that the “vaadivasal will be opened” soon. “I will inaugurate the event myself,” Panneerselvam promised protesters in his latest statement.

While most shops, hotels and restaurants downed shutters in solidarity with the agitation on Friday, several trade unions, business associations and autorickshaw driver unions announced a bandh.

The opposition DMK also called for a rail roko, which culminated in clashes between party cadres and police at Chennai’s Mambalam railway station earlier that day. Party working president MK Stalin and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi were briefly taken into preventative custody after they tried to prevent a train from leaving the main railway station.

However, protesters claim politics has little to do with their demonstration. “This is about being Tamil,” said Arul Ravishankar, a Chennai-based student who has been at Marina since the protests began on Tuesday. “This is about the Centre not helping us, and about a foreign NGO banning a sport they know nothing about. Jallikattu is an integral part of our heritage!”

For many of the protesters, the ban on the bull-taming sport has come as a blow to their collective sense of Tamil pride. Also, as far as identity is concerned, being Indian comes only a distant second to being Tamilian. “Mudhalil en Ammavin magan, appuram thaan athaikku marumagan (I am my mother’s son first, only then am I my aunt’s nephew),” remarked a protester wryly.

Jallikattu, a traditional bull-taming sport played predominantly in Madurai and its surrounding districts, is a customary sight during the three-day Pongal celebrations. The Supreme Court banned the event in 2014, stating that it amounted to cruelty to animals.

The apex court had earlier rejected a petition seeking an order on Jallikattu before the start of the Pongal festivities on January 14, saying it was “unfair” to ask the bench to expedite an order.