With the pro-jallikattu (bull-taming sport) protests turning into a mass movement in Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam held talks with representatives of the protesters in Chennai and flew to New Delhi on Wednesday night to take up the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Separately, AIADMK general secretary V.K. Sasikala backed the demand to ban the global NGO, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), originally raised by DMK leader M.K. Stalin two days ago.
‘It is our right’
However, the representatives refused to call off their agitation, which spawned overnight at the Marina in Chennai, Alanganallur in Madurai, VOC Grounds in Coimbatore and other districts, saying they would await the outcome of the scheduled talks between Mr. Modi and Mr. Panneerselvam on Thursday morning.
Backing the demand of the protesters, the Chief Minister told journalists outside the Chennai airport, “Jallikattu is our right. I am going to insist to the Centre to intervene and promulgate an ordinance to facilitate its conduct.” Initiated on social media platforms, the demonstrations, which were initially confined to college students and rural folk, overnight snowballed into a mass movement of sorts.
At many cities and towns, top revenue and police officials tried in vain to negotiate with the protesters. The Tamil Nadu Government Employees’ Association decided to stage demonstrations on Thursday to express solidarity with the cause.
Sensing the popular mood, the film fraternity also joined the chorus for jallikattu. Already leading actors like Vijay, Suriya, Vikram, Dhanush, Nayantara and many others extended support to the sport claiming that it was the symbol of Tamil culture. Nadigar Sangam has announced a day-long hunger strike on Friday. Sangam secretary actor Vishal wrote a letter to the Prime Minister seeking an ordinance.
The social media became a rallying point for animal rights activists who stood by the ban and picked holes in the popular discourse in support of jallikattu.
Dalit voices countered the demand for jallikattu by stating that the bull taming sport has strong caste overtones and not a traditional sport.
In view of the massive student protests, many State universities declared holiday on Thursday. In Chennai, several colleges announced that they will remain closed on Thursday.