Jallikattu: Tamil Nadu’s ‘Arab Spring’ set to enter third day

Chennai, Jan 18 (IANS) Tamil Nadu experienced a sort of `Arab Spring’ with thousands of youths massed on the Marina beach here on Wednesday for a second day and set to continue the protest in support of Jallikattu.

They rejected Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam’s appeal to end the mass protest. He promised to personally press Prime Minister Narendra Modi to issue an ordinance to allow Jallikattu, the bull-taming sport banned by the Supreme Court.

He assured the student and youth crowds at the beach that his government would take all steps to hold the traditional sport. But the appeal fell on deaf ears.

In Jallikattu, a bull vaulter is expected to hang on to the animal’s hump for a stipulated distance or for a minimum of three jumps by the bull.

The Marina turned into a sea of people with several thousands of young men and women demanding an end to the ban on Jallikattu while insisting on a ban on PETA, which opposes Jallikattu.

The common complaint among protest leaders was that the Supreme Court had insulted Tamil culture by disallowing the animal sport that coincides with the just ended Pongal festival.

Support for the protesters grew, with students of SRM University here announcing a protest outside their institution. Similar protests have been reported at other places in Tamil Nadu.

Lawyers in Namakkal district announced a boycott of courts.

At the Marina, the thousands braving the heat initially found getting food difficult. But with appeals for food sent through social media, food packets started arriving along with volunteers.

“I have made several trips to the beach with food packets. We serve around 2,500 idilis per trip,” one volunteer said. Supply of water too was ensured through the day.

Employees of IT companies came out of their offices in solidarity.

The protesters refused to meet politicians who came to the beach.

Hundreds of college students and others sat through the night at the Marina Beach after talks with two state ministers failed on Tuesday night.

The demonstration began on Tuesday morning after police arrested Jallikattu supporters in Alanganallur town in Madurai district.

After police disconnected the power supply to the Marina Beach, the young crowd used mobile phone lights at night.

DMK Working President and opposition leader M.K. Stalin urged Chief Minister Panneerselvam to meet the demonstrators and take immediate action for holding Jallikattu.

The protesters got a boost when popular actor Vijay lent his support.

“Law was not created to rob people of their tradition and rights but to protect it,” he said in a video message.

“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,” Vijay said. “I’d be really happy if those arrested are released immediately.”

Actor Suriya, in between his promotional tour for upcoming Tamil action “C3”, lashed out at animal rights advocacy group PETA, which is aggressively campaigning against Jallikattu.

Actor G.V. Prakash, singer-lyricist Arunraja Kamaraj and filmmaker Karthik Subbaraj joined the supporters on Tuesday.

While Prakash and Arunraja are observing a silent protest at Marina beach here, Karthik is leading the crowd in Madurai.

Thousands of youths who began their protest in Alanganallur on Monday against the Supreme court ban on the bull-taming sport were arrested a day later.

Police housed the protesters, men and women, in wedding halls. Angered by the arrests, villagers in the area took to the streets.

The Supreme Court in May 2014 banned Jallikattu.

The court held that bulls cannot be used as performing animals either for Jallikattu events or for bullock-cart races in the country.

Since then, people have been urging the central government to take steps to allow the sport.