Jallikattu ban: Protests at Chennai’s Marina Beach, Madras HC won’t ‘interfere’
Thousands of people staged demonstrations at Chennai’s iconic Marina Beach on Wednesday as a fresh wave of protest against a ban on the bull-taming sport Jallikattu gathered momentum in Tamil Nadu.Updated: Jan 18, 2017, 19:25 IST
Thousands of protesters gathered at Chennai’s signature Marina Beach on Wednesday in the first wave of mass public dissent against a court ban on Jallikattu, Tamil Nadu’s popular bull-taming sport played during Pongal festivities in mid-January.
Thousands more vented their anger on social media platforms against the Supreme Court’s 2014 ban, which upheld concerns by animal rights activists that the sport amounted to cruelty to the bull.
“This isn’t about just a sport, but about Tamil culture,” said Saravanan, a student from Chennai who joined 5,000-odd protesters at the seafront.
They demanded lifting of restrictions on Jallikattu, a ban on animal rights campaign group PETA, and an audience with chief minister O Panneerselvam.
Shouts of “Chinnamma Chinamma, OPS enge ma?” (Where is Sasikala Natarajan and O Panneerselvam?” and “PETA varigai, Jallikattu vendum” (Ban PETA, we want Jallikattu) rent the air as people sought the presence of the chief minister and the AIADMK chief.
The chief minister didn’t go to Marina, but promised in a statement that he would request Prime Minister Narendra Modi to pass an emergency ordinance to allow the sport. Also, he implored the protesters to end their demonstration.
The protests began on Tuesday and the numbers swelled each passing hour.
“If the situation continues, students like us who have been patient will be tested, and then both Tamil Nadu and India will have to deal with dire consequences,” Saravanan warned, echoing the views of fellow protesters around him, shouting slogans and waving placards.
In a related development, the Madras high court refused to “interfere” in the protests, saying the matter is being heard in the top court, which last week refused to pass an order before Pongal and allow the popular sport.
Political parties, including the opposition DMK, had staged protests earlier, but the seaside rally appeared to be a spontaneous show of defiance, especially by youngsters.
The ruling AIADMK has also expressed displeasure over the top court’s ban.
Fisheries minister D Jayakumar and cabinet colleague K Pandiarajan held talks with the protesters and said AIADMK parliamentarians will “exert pressure on the Centre” for lifting the ban.
Observers fear the protests could snowball into a bigger movement on the lines of the anti-Hindi, pro-Dravidian agitation in the 1970s. Police sources said views expressed at these protests are against the Union government and are being fuelled by fringe groups.
Reports of protests poured in from Salem, Nagapattinam, Namakkal, Madurai, Coimbatore, Tirupur, Thanjavur, Tiruchirapalli and many other cities, where people from neighbouring villages congregated.
Police installed jammers to block mobile phone signals, fearing that social media posts could add to the anger and bring in more protesters.
“We’re receiving coordination and new information on Facebook and WhatsApp,” said Arul Ravichandran, a 17-year-old student who joined the protests with his classmates. “You can’t stop us. We will be here for however long it takes until the ban is lifted.”
IT professionals also joined in as the agitation showed increasing signs of turning into an urban movement.
“Our culture is being trampled by the Centre and the BJP. This is unacceptable,” said Anand Ravishankar, a 31-year-old IT professional.