23 January, Chennai
Tamil Nadu on Monday passed a law legalizing Jallikattu, the bull taming sport, hours after a police crackdown on young protesters at the Marina beach here triggered widespread violence.
The law replaces the Prevention of cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 that was promulgated to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act on Saturday.
The ordinance had the sanction of President Pranab Mukherjee.
Chief Minister O. Panneerselavam introduced the bill in the assembly. It was passed quickly and unanimously. The law seeks to protect Jallikattu from legal challenges.
This happened on a day when the dragging protest at the Marina, the country’s longest beach, turned violent after police began their crackdown following the people’s refusal to disperse.
Thousands of police personnel were deployed across Chennai, a majority invading the beach and dragging away young men who had been camping there demanding legalization of Jallikattu.
There was bedlam as others tried to pull back those being taken away. Hundreds of youths, both male and female, formed a chain. Many ran towards the sea to dig in. There was a lot of slogan shouting too.
Many of the protesters, after being ousted from the beach, took over neighbouring streets and hurled bricks and stones at the police.
A large group torched several vehicles parked at the Ice House police station, sending thick clouds of black smoke rising in the sky.
As fire tenders battled the flames, police used tear gas and batons to battle the mobs. This only triggered more violence.
The trouble was intense in Triplicane area near the beach.
All routes leading to the Marina were quickly cordoned off, leading to massive traffic jams in parts of Chennai.
Amid vocal criticism from opposition parties and film personalities, including noted actor Kamal Haasan, that police should not have forcibly broken a peaceful protest, many protesters crawled back to the beach.
Spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, himself a Tamil, appealed for calm and urged Tamils not to be swayed by anti-social elements.
Amid the violence, many schools closed down earlier than scheduled, giving anxious moments to parents.
While many are upset with the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for opposing Jallikattu, in most protest venues across Tamil Nadu, slogans were raised against both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Panneerselvam.
Some placards were vulgar and there were random calls too demanding an independent Tamil state.
The crowds finally started to disperse in the event after a retired Madras High Court judge, Hari Parandhaman, explained the finer points of the new law including safety measures to be taken during Jallikattu.
In Jallikattu, a bull vaulter is expected to latch on to the animal’s hump and stay put for a brief period. The bull often attack the vaulters, leading to their death — as it happened with two youths on Sunday.
On Monday, the government cancelled intra-city bus services.
The Southern Railway axed 16 trains. “Around 40,000 passengers are affected daily due to disruption in train services,” a railway official told IANS.
In Madurai too, youths who have been staging protests demanding the lifting of the 2014 Supreme Court ban on Jallikattu fought with police on the streets.
In Coimbatore, the police pounced on a protester who threatened to self-immolate. They snatched the inflammable liquid he had.
The pro-Jallikattu camp wants the central government to take out bulls from the list of performing animals.
P. Rajasekhar, President of the Jallikattu Pathukaapu Peravai, earlier urged people to call off their agitation.
Meanwhile, DMK leader M.K. Stalin and PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss condemned the police action. The police should have dealt with women in a decent manner, Ramadoss said.