Chennai was rocked by violence Monday after police moved to evict nearly 10,000 Jallikattu protesters from Marina Beach. Over a hundred people were reportedly injured and at least two police stations and several vehicles were burnt. The police action in Chennai led to unrest across the state, with police resorting to lathicharge in Coimbatore, Alanganallur near Madurai and Erode.
Several people were taken into custody — police were yet to specify the number of detentions or arrests made.
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In the afternoon, the Tamil Nadu assembly, at a special session, unanimously passed an amendment Bill to conduct the bull-taming sport without any hindrance, replacing an ordinance promulgated two days ago to allow Jallikattu.
The government sent retired justice D Hariparanthaman, a popular judge due to his many orders in labour cases, to brief the nearly 10,000 gathered on the beach on the content of the ordinance. Shortly before 6 pm, the protest was called off, though around 500 students continued to be on the beach, fearing police action if they left the spot.
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Questioning the police action, one of the earliest protesters at the site, Chandra Mohan, said, “Police were aware of our decision to call off the protest on Monday once the Jallikattu Bill was passed by the assembly.” He said the police should be “ashamed” of the action against “peaceful protesters”.
Chandra Mohan claimed that some visuals showed police personnel setting fire to vehicles — a video did the rounds of social media but police said it was “morphed” and would be investigated.
Chennai Police Commissioner S George said the video would be subjected to “scientific investigation” and that “radical elements had infiltrated the group of protesters”.
At other places in Tamil Nadu, such as Salem, Trichy, Tirunelveli, Ariyalur, Perambalur and Virudhunagar, the protests were called off by noon with the intervention of local police.
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Police sources said they were taken by surprise by the resistance the protesters put up while being evicted from the Marina Beach. Around a thousand personnel from the Tamil Nadu special battalions and commando wing started the eviction around 7 am.
“Things went out of control when a group started running towards the sea, threatening suicide. Several hundreds followed them. While a section of protesters were removed successfully, over 2,000 formed a human chain along the shore line to stop us,” an officer said, saying they were later joined by fishermen and women.
Police resorted to lathicharge and TV visuals of fishermen homes and old women being targeted sparked protests in other parts of the city. People blocked a dozen major roads leading to Marina Beach as well as Chennai city, and many more made their way from other areas to join the protesters.
An officer said that while they had blocked the roads by midnight prior to the operation, the crowds couldn’t be held back and they had to resort to lathicharge.
In the assembly, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment), Act, 2017 was piloted by Chief Minister O Panneerselvam and adopted by a voice vote. It was deemed to have come into effect on the day the ordinance was issued — January 21.
The Bill defines Jallikattu as an event involving bulls conducted with a view to following tradition and culture, from January to May, and includes similar events like ‘manjuviratu’, ‘vadamadu’ and ‘erudhuvidum’ festivals. The Bill says that considering the vital role of Jallikattu in preserving and promoting tradition and culture among people and also in view of ensuring the survival and continuance of native breeds of bulls, the “Government of Tamil Nadu has decided to exempt Jallikattu from the provisions of the PCA Act”.