Protests demanding lifting ban on Jallikattu is spreading like a fire. Mass protest at Chennai’s Marina Beach shows that the lovers of Jallikattu are ready to take this fight for saving their age-old traditional sport to any level
Venkatesan T S from Chennai
On the surface, it appears to be a spontaneous protest by the students against lifting the ban on Jallikattu and more particularly ban on People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Chennai Marina saw a sea of youths. This apolitical protest, how they claim, which has been going on since January 17 night demanding permission to host the banned bull-taming festival Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu and ban on PETA. A statewide protests in support of Jallikattu gathered strength as it entered the second day on January 18, with more than thousands participating in an overnight protest at the Marina Beach. Stir by students seeking nod for Jallikattu gained momentum as it spread to all parts of Tamil Nadu with IT employees joining it. Traffic blocks and diversions were seen on several roads in Chennai throughout the day as thousands of people participated in pro-Jallikattu protests in different parts of the city.
Social media appeared to have played a key role in bringing together numerous pro-Jallikattu protesters to the sprawling Marina Beach and other parts of Tamil Nadu, with updates on the ongoing students’ spontaneous stir and messages flooding the platform. Social networking sites including Facebook were full of “We want Jallikattu,” and “I support Jallikattu” pages, which together account for lakhs of followers. Facebook pages like “Jallikattu Veeravilayattu,” (Jallikattu a valour sport) specially designed to spread messages on the
bull-taming sport and protest across the State were active with live updates. Real time pictures, videos of protests were posted regularly which helped the
information reach more and more people, prompting several of them to join hands. A college student here, Sakthivel said, he joined the protests on the Marina Beach responding to a campaign on Facebook, whatapps by several other students. Reports of students boycotting classes and staging protests were coming from Trichy, Salem, Krishnagiri, Coimbatore and other parts of the State. Alanganallur turned the epicentre for protests
demanding the conduct of Jallikattu, the banned bull-taming sport, as thousands of people, mostly youngsters from across the State, gathered at the village and took out protests throughout the day. The mass protests, bereft of any leadership, were staged even as the bull-taming sport, in varied forms, was held in different parts of the State including Sivaganga, Salem, Namakkal, Tiruchi and Tiruvannamalai districts despite ban, on January 15.
After talks with senior police officers failed on January 17 night, the ruling AIADMK sent Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar and School Education Minister Mafoi K Pandiarajan to talk to with the protesters on behalf of the
government. However, the protesters demanded that the Chief Minister should issue a statement to clarify the State’s position on Jallikattu and added that the protest will not cease till then.
Tamil Nadu Chief Hinister O Panneerselvam, in a statement, assured that his government would take all steps to ensure that the ban on jallikattu is lifted. “The non-violent protests of the students and general public to establish our rights, protect our culture and outpour of grief reflect our sentiments. I assure you that the government would continue to take all efforts to ensure jallikattu,” Panneerselvam said.
AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala (Chinnamma) says legal action will be taken against PETA. In a
statement, she assured that the ruling party will move a resolution in the upcoming Assembly session seeking lifting of the ban on the bull-taming sport. She also vowed to initiate legal steps against “foreign” animal rights NGO PETA to prevent it from engaging in activities “inimical” to Tamil culture. Sasikala said that despite being in power at the Centre and in the State then, DMK had not made any effort to prevent the ban by not objecting to bulls being included in the performing animals category by the UPA Government which eventually led to the sport being proscribed.
During the 60s, youths were misguided by the then Dravidian major DMK to join anti-Hindi/anti-North
agitations. It was DMK’s political platform to capture power from Congress Government. The same analogy can be seen in the present agitation in favour of Jallikattu. This time, though the students claim no political parties were behind them, it was a spontaneous and voluntary one. The truth lies elsewhere. If it so, they should not show disrespect to National Flag by showing upside down to mark their protest. They should not have raised slogans against Modi without knowing the real truth. It was BJP Government that issued removing bull from the
controversial list. An intelligence source said, the protest was initially targeted against Modi and Tamil Nadu CM O Pannerselvam. Tamil outfits and Left parties were behind the mobilisation of students. They used the social media to tilt their favour by churning out false propaganda against Centre and AIADMK. Slowly, those who were affected by PETA and American
multinationals, are now funding them to keep the agitation on rolling.” A student asked what were our MPs and Political leaders doing all these months? Why were they protesting at the eleventh hour? If the Centre by any chance, would take steps to hold the game, they could easily take credit for it. It was their intention”, he pointed out.
The same was echoed by a Hindu Munnani leader. “Failing to fool the
people on Modi’s demonetisation move, the Left and the so-called Tamil lovers mounted attack one after another. Their protests against demonetisation failed despite media support. Leaving Pongal holiday from the list by the Centre helped them to make an attack on Modi Government. Before it gained
momentum, Centre included it in the list of declared holidays. When they were starved of reason for another protest, the Jallikattu came handy for them. It was a religious and cultural festival. Now they want it to make as a Tamil festival and in the name of supporting bull, they launched the current agitation. A Media group that was affected by the
demonetisation was blowing these issues out of proportion by airing news with coached up sound bites. Unable to digest the success of Modi’s demonetisation move, these anti-national and chauvinist outfits are playing the Tamil sentiment to corner the Centre”, he pointed out.
Union Minister Prakash Javadekar told media that the Centre’s January 2016 notification, which is under legal scrutiny and will get favourable verdict, allowed the traditional sport while accommodating animal care concerns. The Centre, on January 8, 2016, had issued a notification lifting ban on Jallikattu with certain restrictions. “As far as Jallikattu is
concerned, when I was Environment Minister we had already issued a
notification which has not been quashed by Supreme Court. “But the
implementation of the notification has been stayed. But I am very sure the notification will stand legal scrutiny when it finally gets disposed off,” he added.
“On the surface, the protests in Tamil Nadu may be viewed as a clash between traditionalists and liberals, or, if you say differently, as a clash between differing definitions of what exactly could
construe as cruelty to bulls. There are those who would view the ongoing protests in the framework of a ‘freedom of expression’ issue”, said a journalist.
Meanwhile, Madras High Court has said, ‘It will not “interfere” on the issue of protests in the city against the ban on Jallikattu, holding that the Supreme Court was seized of the matter. It made this observation when a mention was made by an advocate K Balu of PMK in the open court about the protests at the Marina on the Jallikattu issue.
On January 19, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Pannerselvam met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue to seek an ordinance to facilitate holding of the bull-taming sport in New Delhi.
A spokesman of the pro-Jallikattu outfits comprising of representatives of various Tamil organisations including Tamilar Desiya Iyakkam and Naam Tamizhar katchi told newsmen that the bandh is also to impose ban on PETA. The outfits have formed an Action
committee which includes various
students’ organisations and non political units extending support to Jallikattu to spearhead various agitations in Union Territory.
A team of students met Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan at BJP office Kamalalayam in Chennai. The delegation urged the immediate release of arrested students and lifting of ban by proclomation of ordinance and ban on PETA in India. Later he told media that he had assured them by saying he woud take up matter with the Centre and would do the needful.
Jallikattu Despite ban
The strong police presence at places famous for holding the event could not stop Jallikattu enthusiasts from
unleashing bulls in presence of hundreds of spectators.
In Madurai district, Alanganallur, Palamedu and Avaniyapuram are famous for Jallikattu. Police blocked all entrances to the Jallikattu ‘arenas’ in these villages and kept vigil on the houses of bull
owners. Despite the effort, Jallikattu was conducted. Shops remained closed as a mark of protest, and several residents hoisted black flags atop their houses. With a large protest in Palamedu which is about 14 km away from Madurai city, where thousands of people took out a procession, along with brightly decorated temple bulls in protest, demanding the right to conduct Jallikattu.
BJP’s national executive member H Raja participated in a Jallikattu event held near Thirupathur in Sivaganga on January 15. He assured that all efforts would be taken to ensure that the game is conducted soon.
Madurai District Superintendent of police Vijayendra S Bidari, who was camping in Alanganallur, said more than 30 people were formally arrested for releasing bulls on January 15 despite the Supreme Court ban on Jallikattu.
Similarly the event was held despite police vigil across Namakkal, Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri and Erode