Chennai: Students, techies, actors, and politicians have converged in Tamil Nadu demanding that a ban be lifted on the traditional bull-taming sport of Jallikattu, which they say is a symbol of Tamil pride and culture. About 3,000 people have gathered since Tuesday night at Chennai’s Marina beach and big protests are also being held in other parts of the state. The Madras High Court said today that it will not “interfere” with the protests.
The protesters at Marina Beach say they want Chief Minister O Panneerselvam to speak to them and then put pressure on the centre to permit Jallikattu, banned by the Supreme Court, through an ordinance or executive order.
The protesters have also demanded a ban on animal rights organisation People for Ethical Treatment of Animals or PETA, which has lobbied hard to ensure that the sport is not allowed.
The protests have so far been peaceful but there are worries about such a large gathering in the heart of Chennai. The police have tried to get the crowd to disperse, but to no avail.
Tamil Nadu ministers Jayakumar and Ma Foi Pandiarajan met the protesters and assured them that the government agrees with them and will approach the centre to seek an ordinance. The chief minister is seeking legal options, the government has said.
Popular actor Vijay visited Marina Beach to show solidarity with the protesters. Others like Sivakumar and Vishal have made statements in support of Jallikattu. “Law was not created to rob people off 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,” actor Vijay said in a video message.
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.
But the champions of Jallikattu say there is no cruelty to the animals. “Our people revere bulls, there is no cruelty,” said Tamil Nadu’s education minister Ma Foi Pandiarajan.
All political parties in the state say they support Jallikattu and accuse 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.
Jallikattu was banned by the Supreme Court in 2014 after animal rights activists moved court against it.The Supreme Court had last week rejected a plea urging it to pass early verdict on a petition on Jallikattu before Pongal, the harvest festival during which it is held, on Saturday last.