Hours after the Supreme Court rejected a plea inviting its interference to allow Jallikattu during this Pongal, protests erupted across Tamil Nadu. The police had to resort to lathicharge to control the situation at several places. More than two dozen people were arrested for illegally holding Jallikattu in Cuddalore town.
The chorus in support of the sport grew with more sections of people, including students, joining protests in different parts of the state, including in places where it is not so popular.
Students of state-run Anna University and Dr Ambedkar Law University took to the streets in support for Jallikattu. While Anna varsity students staged a sit-in protest, law students took out a rally here. Similar demonstrations were held by students in various places, including Vellore, Pudukottai and Tirupur.
A students’ protest in Madurai turned violent when police resorted to a lathicharge to disperse them. The agitators said it was a peaceful protest and they were on their way to the collector's office to submit a letter in support of the Jallikattu when police stopped them.
About 10,000 people converged at a ground in Coimbatore in support of Jallikattu, while protests were staged in Sivaganga, Dindigul, Pudukottai and Salem districts.
Both the ruling AIADMK and Opposition DMK came out with statements portraying the importance of Jallikattu to Tamil culture, and vowed to push the Centre in this regard.
The bull taming sport Jallikattu, organised to celebrate Pongal festival, has not been held in Tamil Nadu for the last two years. It was first banned in May 2014 by the apex court. In 2016 though the Centre permitted the event, the court stepped in and stayed it. Animal rights groups oppose the sport on the grounds of cruelty to animals.
DMK working president, MK Stalin, announced on Thursday that his party would hold protests in every district of the state on Friday to “force the Centre to allow the sport”. AIADMK spokesperson C Saraswati dubbed the apex court decision as “unfortunate,” and said the state government would do everything in its power to ensure that the event is held.
Stalin also participated in a demonstration held by college students here seeking permission for jallikattu. “I extended support for the agitation by participating in their protest. It is welcome that students are holding protests for Jallikattu,” he said.
He said only such solidarity and participation by students “guarded our mother tongue”, in an apparent reference to the large scale anti-Hindi protests by students in 1960’s. “Similarly, I believe that students’ agitations will protect jallikattu, the cultural symbol of the Tamil people,” Stalin said.
Film personalities including actor Sathyaraj, filmmaker Karu Pazhaniappan participated in a stir here pledging support for Jallikattu. Actor Simbu held a silent protest.
In Coimbatore, people from different spheres of life, cutting across caste, linguistic and political barriers, took part in the protest at the sprawling CODISSIA grounds under the banner of “Voice for Jallikattu”.
The protests over Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu had its echo in the neighbouring union territory of Puducherry where volunteers of various youth outfits staged a human chain agitation supporting the bull taming sport on the ground that it was part of the time-honoured tradition of the Tamils.
The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a plea seeking its intervention to lift the ban on Jallikattu before Saturday saying it is “unfair to ask bench to pass an order” while the draft of the judgment has been prepared.