A week-long agitation in support of Jallikattu appeared to have ended across Tamil Nadu on Tuesday as protesters moved out of Chennai’s iconic Marina beach and other places a day after the government legalised the bull-taming sport despite a Supreme Court ban.
The relative peace came a day after violence rocked Chennai and other parts of the state when police evicted protesters shortly before the assembly hurriedly passed a new bill, amending a 57-year-old law to bypass the court ban on Jallikattu.
The government move is seen as a step to pacify Tamils, many of whom consider Jallikattu rituals as an integral part of the community’s history and culture and had agitated for lifting of the court ban.
Police said only a handful of protesters, described as members of pro-Tamil and pro-Left organisations, remained at the seafront which had seen the congregation of lakhs of people over the past few days.
Reports from around the city said traffic movement was normal during the morning rush hour and schools and colleges – some of which were closed for the agitation – witnessing near full attendance. Attendance in offices was also normal.
Police said they were going through CCTV footage to identify people involved in Monday’s violence when nearly 100 vehicles were allegedly set ablaze by stone-pelting protesters. 90 policemen were also injured in the incident.
There were allegations of police highhandedness and use of excessive force against peaceful protesters. Police also face charges of dragging out people from houses located near the beach.
Chennai police commissioner S George has denied the allegations and said there were some miscreants in the congregation of youth and students at Marina beach and police had only targeted them.
“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 said at a media briefing late on Monday evening.
The top court ruled the sport illegal in 2014 and refused to hear a challenge to that decision last week, leading to the protests which began peacefully.
However, the new bill remains open to judicial scrutiny as animal rights experts are most likely to challenge it, experts said.
Since Jallikattu events resumed on Sunday, at least three men were gored to death and dozens injured across the state.
Animal rights activists say the sport is also cruel and unsafe to the animals, who often have chili powder rubbed into their eyes and have their tails broken as crowds try to grab them.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to take up the case again later this week.
(With agency inputs)