Tamil Nadu on Thursday made a forceful appeal for an ordinance to skirt a ban on Jallikattu but Prime Minister Narendra Modi remained non-committal on the contentious issue, saying the matter was in the Supreme Court.
Chief minister O Panneerselvam rushed to Delhi for a meeting with Modi as a wave of protests rocked the southern state with anger rising over the apex court’s ban on the ancient bull-taming sport.
“(I) gave a letter to PM saying that ban on Jallikattu must be lifted and Centre should draft an ordinance on it,” Panneerselvam told reporters after a meeting with Modi.
In a series of tweets, Modi also said the government acknowledged the “cultural significance” of Jallikattu but added the “matter is presently sub-judice”.
Panneerselvam also said the state government will “will soon take steps along with (the) Centre on how to enable Jallikattu”, a remark which was similar to one of Modi’s tweets.
“The Centre would be supportive of steps taken by the State Government,” Modi said.
However, neither Modi nor Panneerselvam explained how they would override the apex court’s 2014 ban and its subsequent striking down of a Centre notification allowing the sport.
“You will soon see steps. Wait, good will happen,” Panneerselvam added, a day after the ruling AIADMK’s general secretary VK Sasikala said the state government will “adopt resolution” for lifting the ban against Jallikattu.
Shortly before the chief minister’s comments, the Supreme Court refused to hear a plea over the protests at Chennai’s iconic Marina beach, which has turned into the ground zero for the agitation against the ban.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar asked the petitioner, lawyer Raja Raman, to file a plea in the Madras high court for relief.
“The public there in the Marina beach were staging a peaceful protest, but the police were even not allowing the protesters to take food and water. So this court should take suo motu cognisance in the matter and hear it,” Raman said.
The Supreme Court had outlawed Jallilkatu in 2014 after a plea by animal rights groups which have long argued that the event -- held every year in different parts of Tamil Nadu state -- is cruel.
In Chennai, the crowds continued to swell at the sea front as the massive unrest continued for the third day.
The fresh wave of protests was triggered by the Supreme Court’s refusal last week to pass an order before the Pongal celebrations.
Thousands of protesters have been camping at Marina beach since Tuesday, refusing to end their agitation till the ban is lifted.
Sources said police caned some of the protesters on Wednesday night. Police say the protests have remained peaceful so far but have spread to large parts of the state. Authorities also ordered over two dozen colleges in the city to close down.
Tensions have been escalating for the last week after hundreds of people were detained by police for allegedly organising local Jallikatu contests in defiance of the court ban.
Several popular Tamil film stars have voiced their support for the demonstrators as has India’s leading spin bowler Ravichandran Ashwin.
Tamil Nadu witnessed large scale protests by students in 1960s over the imposition of Hindi as the official language in the southern state, with the majority Dravidian community fiercely opposing it before the order was rolled back by the central government.