Protest against ban on Jallikattu gains momentum

Swathi Moorthy L N Revathy Chennai/ Coimbatore | Updated on January 12, 2018

Students hold up a banner protesting the ban on Jallikattu near the Marina Beach in Chennai on Wednesday.

Members of the public and students stage a protest on Avinashi Road in Coimbatore on Wednesday, condemning the arrest of Jallikattu protesters at Alanaganallur in Madurai. -- J Manoharan

Chennai's Marina Beach has been abuzz since early this morning. Tens of thousands of people have gathered at the beach to protest against the ban on traditional bull-taming sport Jallikattu.

Youngsters, including college students and IT professionals, were seen holding placards that read ‘Save Jallikattu. Ban PETA’ and ‘Save Tamil Culture and Native Bull.’

The protest began as a small gathering of a few hundred at Vivekananda House on the Marina Beach on Tuesday evening. But, as the protest went viral on social media, the few hundreds of protesters swelled into thousands, raising slogans against the Centre and the state’s inability to lift the ban on the sport.

PK Naresh Kumar, an IT professional, who has been at the Marina Beach since 7 p.m. yesterday, said two ministers, D. Jayakumar from the Fisheries Department and Education and Youth Welfare Minister MaFoi Pandiarajan, held a meeting with 10 representatives. “But we could not come to a consensus as we wanted the Chief Minister's intervention,” Kumar said. He is participating along with three of his friends.

Today, the crowd on the beach had crossed the 10,000-mark with many college and school students participating in the protest. Nirmala, a Class 11 student, has come with her mother to join the protest. Shakthi and her friends from an engineering college in Chennai are also participating in the protest. “Around 600 hundred students from our college are participating. There are over 400 on the way from the Arts and Science departments,” Shakti added.

It is not just youngsters who are raising their voices. People like S Kumar, G Mani and Ponnrangam, who are natives of Madurai and have been rearing bulls for the sport for at least four generations, have joined forces with the students.

Ponnurangam, who is distributing biscuits to protestors, said, “I have participated in the protest since I was a child and have been rearing bulls with my father. It is in my blood and I consider this a man’s pride. Banning what has been a Tamil tradition for a long time is killing our culture,” he said.

Mani, who works in a private company, grew up participating in the sport. Even now his family rears two bulls. “We use the bull that wins in Jallikattu for breeding to get the best offspring. When you ban, it affects the productivity of native bulls,” he explained.

Kumar, who reminisced about the time he escaped from the bull’s wrath, said, “It is just like any other sport. Risk is always there. But you do not stop playing because of that, right?” Kumar questioned.

“I’m taking personal leave from work and will support Jallikattu as long as it takes,” he added. That is the sentiment that resonates across the Marina Beach.

Refreshment parlours near the beach saw brisk business. K. Pankajam, who runs a small refreshment kiosk, said the shops along the beach had opened earlier than normal. “I wanted to close the shop and join the protest, but these people would want something to drink. So I have kept my shop open, but my college-going son and daughter have joined the protest,” she said.

Jayakumar N, Lenin and Santhosh, who are employers in private organisations, have been supplying water and food to protestors. Jayakumar said, “We did not know each other before. But we are trying our best to support the people by buying water and biscuits with our own money.”

According to one of the police officials deployed at the beach, the number of students joining the protest has been increasing since morning. “At least 500 students from one college are participating. There are over 10,000 now, so you can imagine how many college students have joined,” the official said.

Another official who was deployed to monitor the situation, said around 500 police personnel have been deployed to handle the situation. “But so far youngsters are behaving and not causing trouble for us. They have even been helping us in regulating vehicular traffic and are not causing harm to onlookers,” the official said.

If protesting on the Marina Beach is not enough, similar protests were also organised at Tidelpark, Sholinganallur and Old Mahabalipuram Road in the city, causing traffic congestion.

Protests echo in Coimbatore

It is probably for the first time in many years that Coimbatore has witnessed young volunteers from colleges across the city unite to press for their demand to lift the ban on Jallikattu.

These student-volunteers started their 11-km rally from Codissia Ground at 9 am to reach VOC Park Ground by noon. By then, the park ground was brimming with crowds of students and there was no place to accommodate the late-comers.

Some of them spilt onto the street outside the Nehru Stadium, voicing their protest against the ban. A good number of them refused to entertain questions from the media. They were dressed in black, moved around in cars (with some sitting on the rooftop of cars) and bikes, some were on foot, shouting slogans against the Centre and state.

A cross-section, however, said they would continue their protest till the sport (Jallikattu) is telecast live on TV channels.

On the mammoth turnout, a student who preferred anonymity, said they had coordinated on social media including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, since eight last night.

Meanwhile, all roads leading to VOC Ground were barricaded, resulting in traffic congestion on Avinashi Road and the by-lanes off the main arterial roads here.

Vehicles were not stopped, but could only move at snail's pace.

Police officials remained silent spectators, merely requesting the crowd not to turn violent.

Around 1.15 pm, four techies from an IT company in Keeranatham village, an emerging IT hub, decided to sit outside the tech-park campus to mark their protest against the ban on Jallikattu.

Within an hour, their numbers had swelled to over 1,000, as their colleagues from companies in the vicinity joined to support the cause.

Published on January 18, 2017

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