A day after Tamil Nadu promulgated an ordinance to conduct jallikattu, a bull-tamer and a spectator were gored to death by bulls and 129 spectators injured at an event in Raapusal village in Pudukottai district on Sunday though hostile crowds forced Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam to return without inaugurating the event at Alanganallur in Madurai.
Across the State, protesters refused to leave venues, demanding that the ordinance be replaced with a legislation, which they see as a “permanent” approval to conduct the rural sport sans legal impediment. The protesters refused to accept Mr. Panneerselvam’s assurance that a legislation will be enacted in the Assembly session beginning on Monday.
As the protests continued, jallikattu could not be conducted at several venues despite the urgent ordinance. In Coimbatore, Municipal Administration Minister S.P. Velumani had to be escorted to safety when he faced a hostile crowd soon after he inaugurated a rekla race.
Talks with protesters
In a bid to quell the agitation, the Government on Sunday announced that all colleges and schools will resume functioning from Monday even as negotiations continued with the protesters through some interlocutors, till late in the evening.
Following the opposition in Alanganallur, where people blocked roads leading to the sporting arena, the Chief Minister told journalists, “The people will conduct jallikattu as per their wish at a time chosen by them.” He later left for Chennai in the afternoon.
To a question on the demand for banning the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Mr. Panneerselvam said the State government will take all measures to prevent attempts by any forces to stop jallikattu.
Health Minister C. Vijaya Baskar, who had flagged off jallikattu in his native Raapusal village in which two people died, however, claimed that all safety guidelines, as laid down by the Supreme Court, were adhered to.
While G. Raja (34), a bull-tamer was gored by a bull when he attempted to tame it, a school teacher R Mohan (30) was attacked by a bull outside the barricaded area. Both had sustained serious injuries and were taken to a hospital where they succumbed to excessive bleeding.
The Minister said, the jallikattu – a centuries-old-tradition in the village – was held after a gap of three years. “We did not violated any rule. The District Collector, Superintendent of Police, officials from the Public Works Department, Animal Husbandry and Revenue Departments had inspected the venue on Saturday night and gave suitable instructions for the arrangements to be put in place. Wooden barricades were erected on either side of the ground on Saturday night to prevent onlookers from entering the arena. Besides this, coir path was laid on the ground to prevent injuries to bull tamers and dust emanating from the ground,” he told The Hindu. The PWD officials had given the stability certificate after inspection.
“It is sheer bad luck and really unfortunate that the tragedy had taken place,” he said after consoling the families of the victims.
Mr Baskar said the spectators turned out in large numbers this time. Seating for onlookers was usually not arranged at Raapusal village unlike Alanganallur. A makeshift stage was erected for VIPs and officials to watch the event.
Every bull was let out from the Vaadi Vaasal a few moments after the earlier one was released and medical teams were stationed to attend to the injured immediately.
A fleet of 108 ambulances were also deployed at the spot to immediately shift the injured to the hospital, he added.
Health department officials said some of the injured were referred to the Government Hospitals in Pudukottai and Iluppur.
Mobile phone connectivity remained a problem in this non-descript village as many could not get in touch with those present at the venue and outside. It took over an hour for the vehicular congestion to ease after the conclusion of the event which lasted nearly four hours.