It has been 24 hours since protests began across Tamil Nadu to bring back Jallikattu or the bull-taming festival. The epicentre is capital Chennai’s famous Marina Beach where thousands of people, mostly students and young professionals, have gathered since last night in absolutely peaceful protest. They have refused to leave till the ban on Jallikattu is lifted and want the government and courts to listen to their demands, saying their fight is for their culture, for Tamil pride. Jallikattu, they claim, is not cruel to animals.
While all political parties, including the ruling AIADMK has supported the demand for Jallikattu to be allowed again, the protests have not been sponsored by any party. They are led mainly by students, who have drawn the support of actors, cricketers and other celebrities. They have also demanded that the state ban animal rights organisation People for Ethical Treatment of Animals or PETA, which has lobbied hard to ensure that the sport is not allowed.
Crowds at the Marina beach swelled today in response to appeals on social media. Protests may continue for a while; 31 colleges in Chennai have declared holidays from tomorrow.
AIADMK chief Sasikala Natarajan has said she will again ask the centre for an ordinance or executive order to allow Jallikattu despite a Supreme Court ban and Tamil Nadu chief minister O Panneerselvam will meet the Prime Minister tomorrow. Her party, Ms Natarajan said, is also seeking legal advice on how PETA can be banned in the state.
The protest in Chennai has been completely peaceful so far but there are worries about so large a gathering in the heart of Chennai. All efforts by the city police to get the crowd to disperse have failed so far.
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The Jallikattu protests at Marina beach in Chennai have been led by mostly students, techies
On Wednesday evening top cricketer Ravichandran Ashwin, who belongs to Chennai, tweeted, “Scenes of peaceful protest all around TN.Unity, peace and resolve will show our plea in the right light.#peacefulprotests#jallikattu.”
In a video message, popular actor Vijay said, “The law was not created to rob people of their tradition and rights but to protect it. Jallikattu is every Tamilian’s identity. Those who are protesting against the ban on Jallikattu are united by the feeling that they are Tamilians but not out of compulsion or political pressure. I bow down to each and everyone of them.”
Animal rights activists say Jallikattu subjects bulls to torture and pain “You basically see a bull having its tail bitten, being stabbed with sickles, agitated, stuff rubbed into its eyes with 20 people jumping on it,” said advocate and animal rights activist, Rudra Krishna.
“Our people revere bulls, there is no cruelty,” Tamil Nadu’s education minister Ma Foi Pandiarajan told NDTV today.
Jallikattu, held during the harvest festival of Pongal, has not been held in Tamil Nadu for the last three years, after it was banned by the Supreme Court in 2014.
The Court had last week rejected a plea urging it to give early verdict on a petition on Jallikattu before this year’s Pongal last Saturday. On a petition on the protests, the Madras High Court said today that it will not “interfere” as the Supreme Court is hearing a case on Jallikattu. Political parties in the state have accused each other of not pushing enough to have the ban, lifted. The ruling AIADMK has blamed the DMK for the ban, imposed when its partner the Congress led the Central government. The DMK has taunted the AIADMK for not ensuring that Jallikattu was allowed this year.