Tamil Nadu and the Centre on Friday worked feverishly to bring out an ordinance for ensuring Jallikattu soon as a general strike brought the state to a standstill and tens of thousands of protesters on Marina beach and elsewhere refused to relent until the sport is held.
The state continued to be on the edge on the fifth day of the protest by students, youths and other sections demanding immediate staging of the traditional bull-taming sport in Alanganallur, epicentre of the of Jallikattu, and other places.
They said they welcome the efforts to promulgate an ordinance for allowing the sport but they would not withdraw the agitation until the event is held.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, who stayed back in the national capital on Thursday after his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, announced in the morning that the state government would issue an ordinance in a day or two to allow Jallikattu.
A draft of the ordinance has already been given to the Union home ministry for getting President’s consent after which the Governor would issue it.
“After getting the assent of President Pranab Mukherjee tomorrow, an ordinance will be promulgated by our Governor to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,” he said on his arrival in Chennai. He said legal steps would be taken to remove “all obstacles” in the way of holding the sport.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh, on whom a large delegation of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MPs called, Environment Minister Anil Dave and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad gave assurances of early steps by the Centre to resolve the issue soon.
Parallely, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the Supreme Court that the Centre was in talks with Tamil Nadu to find a way out in the matter after which the court agreed not to pass judgement for a week on the Jallikattu issue.
With the Centre drawing flak, Bharatiya Janata Party sought to project that its government was actively engaged in resolving the issue.
The law minister said he has held discussions with BJP president Amit Shah on the issue, while Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan and Tamil Nadu BJP chief Tamilisai Soundarajan flanked Dave when he met the media.
Though political parties have been kept away from the ‘youth uprising’, main opposition party Dravida Munnetra Kazagham staged state-wide rail roko agitation, with its Working President MK Stalin leading the protests by squatting on tracks in Mambalam. Stalin and Kanimozhi besides many DMK workers were arrested.
Stalin has also announced that he will observe a day long fast on Saturday.
The call for general strike by various trade unions including those affiliated to DMK and the Left parties besides section of traders bodies led to a shutdown with shops and business establishments downing shutters and schools and colleges remaining closed across the state.
The Tamil film industry expressed solidarity with Jallikattu supporters, with top actors and actresses joining a silent protest. Film shootings were suspended for the day.
Superstar Rajinikanth, actors Ajit Kumar, Surya, Siva Karthikeyan besides actress Trisha, who had faced flak from the pro-Jallikattu groups for her perceived opposition to the sport by reportedly being associated with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, joined the silent protest.
Autos and call taxis kept off the roads even as few government buses plied on the roads.
Banking operations took a hit with workers taking part in protests. Employees of various IT companies held placards and banners with slogans against PeTA.
Many inter and intra-state trains were fully and partially cancelled while some others were diverted. The suburban EMU services ran late.
In Chennai, all roads led to Marina beach with men and women, clad in black, besides children joining the protest that has transcended political and other differences.
The chief minister’s announcement that he himself will flag off Jallikattu failed to cut any ice with the protesters. Youths in large numbers arrived in a continuous stream on
motorcycles and cars via several adjoining roads and converged on the already heavily crowded Kamarajar Salai.
A police constable attached to Armed Police Reserve, Maya Azaghu, was cheered lustily after he extended his support to the cause at the Marina. As the constable in uniform spoke on the microphone extending his support, the youngsters, who have been camping there for the past four days, clapped for him.
Meanwhile, the Chennai Police lauded the agitating youth at Marina, saying they maintained “extraordinary calm and peace” for the past few days.
“They have cooperated with the police in maintaining free flow of traffic on Kamarajar Salai. The youth are requested not to believe any rumours being circulated in social media relating to any police action,” Chennai City Police said on its social networking page.
Cinema theatres have suspended screening of films from dawn to dusk in the state.
Textile traders at Erode hoisted black flags atop their shops even as they downed shutters.
In Coimbatore, a student attempted suicide but was rescued by others, police said. The student climbed atop a tree and put a rope around his neck during a protest, but some students foiled his bid and brought him down. A group of people at Thirumalayampalayam burnt the effigy of PeTA, slamming it for its anti-Jallikattu stand.
The villagers took out a funeral procession of the effigy and set it on fire, police said.
With roads wearing almost a deserted look, five to six bullock-driven carts were seen at Saibaba Colony on Mettupalayam Road in the city, in a symbolic observation of
About 2,000 DMK workers, including district functionaries and former ministers, were arrested when they attempted to stage rail roko at city railway station.
Nearly 100 students, who attempted to picket the Central Telegraph Office and Post Office, were removed from the spot, police said.
The strike call evoked a good response in South Tamil Nadu with almost all shops and commercial establishments remaining closed.
Farmers, doctors, lawyers and other professionals too joined the pro-Jallikattu strike and protests. Some pilgrims from Andhra Pradesh and Bihar were stranded in Rameswaram Island as the early morning passenger train they were scheduled to board did not run.
Fishermen from Ramanathapuram, Nagapattinam and Kaniyakumari, amomg others, staged protests.
In almost all the southern districts, private transport, including cars and autorickshaws were off the roads, and in several places hotels and restaurants remained closed.