Thousands of students on Wednesday gathered on the sands of Marina in Chennai as protests demanding lifting of the ban on bull-taming sport Jallikattu snowballed across Tamil Nadu.
Faced with mounting anger on the streets, the top brass of the state government got into a huddle as Chief Minister O Panneerselvam decided to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday seeking an ordinance for conduct of the age-old sport. He will be accompanied by 51 MPs of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
He appealed to the students to give up their protests even as IT sector employees and several more actors joined the chorus for allowing Jallikattu.
Meanwhile, the Madras high court said it will not ‘interfere’ on the issue, holding that the Supreme Court was seized of the matter.
A mention was made by an advocate K Balu in the open court about the protests at the Marina on the Jallikattu issue.
He brought to the court’s notice disconnection of power supply in the area when a ‘peaceful demonstration’ was going on Tuesday evening. Besides, drinking water was not provided to protesters, he complained.
The first bench, comprising Chief Justice S K Kaul and Justice M Sundar, declined to ‘interfere in the matter at this stage’.
“First of all, the apex court is seized of the matter. When it is so, even the high court and Tamil Nadu government cannot do anything and moreover, Marina Road is not a place for any demonstrations. The court does not want to interfere at this stage,” the bench said.
The epicentre of protests appeared to have shifted to the state capital with thousands of students and youths gathering at the Marina beach demanding an end to the ban on the age-old sport, saying it symbolised Tamil culture and the ban reflected an anti-Tamil mindset.
Symbolic Jallikattu events, where bulls were let loose, were reported from Madurai, Sivaganga and Pattukottai.
Crowds, meanwhile, continued to swell at Alanganallur and Tamukkam grounds in Madurai, the traditional base for the sport.
Animal rights organisation PeTA, which had moved the Supreme Court against holding of the sport, was the target of attack by protesters who demanded that it should be wound up.
The agitation by students, voluntary groups of pro-Tamil outfits and farmers was well-attended with thousands thronging the venue including in Chennai and Madurai.
Tension prevailed at Tamukkam grounds as three students attempted to set themselves ablaze which was foiled by police.
Employees working in the Information Technology sector joined the agitation by forming human chains and staging protests in the vicinity of their workplaces including the city's IT corridor on Rajiv Gandhi Salai.
Seven activists of a pro-Tamil outfit climbed the historic Pamban railway bridge in Rameswaram and held a dharna. When they were removed by police, they threatened to jump into the sea and commit suicide if they were arrested.
Tension prevailed in Kandipatti village in Sivaganga where 'Manju Virattu' (bull chasing) was organised with 100 bulls. Police baton-charged to disperse the participants. However, the protesters allegedly attacked police with stones damaging a police vehicle and reinforcements were sent to bring the situation under control.
At Pasukaranpatti in Madurai district, organisers released many bulls with prize money attached to their horns on the road leaving it to youths to tame them and take the prize money. Similar events were held near Pattukottai in which 30 bulls participated.
In view of the intensifying protests, the chief minister held a high-level meeting with top officials including chief secretary Girija Vaidyanathan, DGP T K Rajendran and Chennai Police Commissioner S George.
More film personalities, including actors Vishal, comedian Vivek and Sivakarthikeyan expressed support for Jallikattu. Actors' body South Indian Artistes' Association announced a hunger strike on January 20 on the issue.
Talks by State Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar and School Education Minister K Pandiarajan followed by senior police officials failed to dissuade the protestors at Marina beach who insisted that the chief minister visit the site and give an assurance that the sport would be allowed.
Protests were held and rallies taken out in several districts including Chennai, Kanchipuram, Tiruvallur, Madurai, Coimbatore, Tiruchirappalli, Ariyalur, Cuddalore, Villupuram, Virudhunagar, Sivaganga, Theni, Thanjavur, Salem, Erode, Karur, Dharmapuri and Kanyakumari.
Also, 'road rokos' were held in various locations, including Ramanathapuram.
In rallies and protests by students and IT employees, slogans like 'We want Jallikattu' and 'Ban anti-Tamil PETA' were raised.
In Virudachalam in Cuddalore district where students resorted to 'rail roko', chaotic scenes were witnessed with police removing them from the spot.
Two youths resorted to a flash protest by climbing a mobile phone tower in Namakkal and lawyers took out a rally in Dindigul and led decorated bulls in a procession.
The protests by students were nearly complete with those studying in Annamalai and Azhagappa universities in Chidambaram and Karaikudi respectively joining it.
Farmers Joint Action Council President Deivasigamani told reporters in Thanjavur that the Centre should announce its decision on Jallikattu within 48 hours, else they would organise state-wide agitation on January 20.
In Madurai and surrounding regions, more than 20 traders organisations also announced closure of shops on January 20 if the ban on Jallikattu was not lifted.
Actor Vishal wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking an ordinance facilitating conduct of Jallikattu.
Actor Sivakarthikeyan tweeted, "We need Jallikattu."
AIADMK organisational secretary C Ponnaiyan blamed the Centre on the matter.
"The Centre is inordinately delaying or avoiding issuance of an ordinance (to allow holding of 'jallikattu') which is well within their hands," he said, adding more measures were being taken on the issue to facilitate holding the bull-taming sport.
Photographs: R Senthil Kumar/PTI Photo