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AS thousands of transport workers, traders, drivers, students, officials of many private firms and the film fraternity, among others, joined the agitation on the fourth day, an estimated 20 lakh people were out on streets across Tamil Nadu on Friday, demanding removal of the ban on Jallikattu.
The strike announced by various unions nearly doubled the crowd of people protesting peacefully, and lakhs more are expected to join in over the weekend. With protesters refusing to call off the agitation even after Chief Minister O Panneerselvam promised that Jallikattu will take place on Sunday, a high-level government meeting was held in Chennai on Friday evening to assess the situation.
WATCH VIDEO | Tamil Nadu CM O Panneerselvam Assures Protesters, Says Jallikattu Likely In 2 Days
According to a source close to the Chief Minister’s office, Panneerselvam is likely to inaugurate a Jallikattu event at Alanganallur village, near Madurai, on Sunday — “provided there are no more legal hurdles”. The source said, “District officials visited the arena in Alanganallur on Friday to assess the situation. The CM’s office is expect to give final clearance to Madurai administration on Saturday.”
On Friday evening, the government was told that Chennai’s Marina Beach alone had a constant gathering of more than 2 lakh protesters since Thursday night. Another 10 lakh or so went to the beach with food, water and support for protesters, according to estimates.
Unlike other times, a protest fast organised by Nadigar Sangam, the most powerful actors’ organisation in South India, was ignored by people at large. Even as actors Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, among several others, joined the protest, there was no sign of the the masses that usually turn up for such events to get a glimpse of celebrities.
The DMK’s ‘rail roko’ protest in Chennai and other places created public inconvenience in a movement that had reported only five major incidents where the police were forced to intervene since Tuesday. DMK cadres were lathicharged after they destroyed police barricades at Mambalam in Chennai.
The day also saw a large number of women at protest venues, with several nurses and hospital workers joining them in uniforms in Coimbatore and Salem. People belonging to hundreds of women’s self-help groups and Muslim youth organisations cooked food for protesters camping near Coimbatore’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
The police, a senior officer said, are collecting intelligence inputs on the “character of gatherings”. The officer said, “We have to make sure that protests stop on Saturday night or Sunday, when Jallikattu will take place.”
Protesters, who are cleaning tonnes of garbage every morning since Wednesday, are learnt to have assured police that they will clean Marina Beach before leaving.
While many Dalit activists and intellectuals turn away from pro-Jallikattu debates, contending that the event has been a reason for anti-Dalit riots and attacks in many villages over the last three decades, feminists blame Jallikattu for its “male chauvinistic features”.
Ravikumar, writer and general secretary of Dalit party VCK, said no party in the state is currently capable of intervening or taking up the larger causes of this struggle. “It may not die down soon. There is a pent-up anger on genuine issues. But the trigger, Jallikattu, was illogical,” said Ravikumar, who believes the emerging conflict between Tamil nationalism and Hindu nationalism will eventually lead to a compromise since they have many similarities.