Chennai: Thousands of students on Wednesday gathered on the sands of Marina here as protests demanding lifting of the ban on bull-taming sport 'jallikattu' snowballed across Tamil Nadu.
Faced with mounting anger on the streets, the top brass of the state government got into a huddle as Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam decided to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday seeking an ordinance for conduct of the age-old sport. He will be accompanied by 51 MPs of AIADMK.
He appealed to the students to give up their protests even as IT sector employees and several more actors joined the chorus for allowing 'jallikattu'. The epicentre of protests appeared to have shifted to the state capital with thousands of students and youths collecting on Marina beach demanding an end to the ban on the age-old sport, saying it symbolised Tamil culture and the ban reflected an anti-Tamil mindset.
Symbolic 'jallikattu' events, where bulls were let loose, were reported from Madurai, Sivaganga and Pattukottai. Crowds, meanwhile, continued to swell at Alanganallur and Tamukkam grounds in Madurai, the traditional base for the sport. Protesters at Alanganallur demanded that the Centre issue an ordinance to allow Jallikattu before 6pm on Wednesday.
Animal rights organisation PETA, which had moved the Supreme Court against holding of the sport, was the target of attack by protesters who demanded that it should be wound up. The agitation by students, voluntary groups of pro-Tamil outfits and farmers was well-attended with thousands thronging the venue including here and Madurai. Tension prevailed at Tamukkam grounds as three students attempted to set themselves ablaze which was foiled by police.
Employees working in the Information Technology sector on Wednesday joined the agitation here by forming human chains and staging protests in the vicinity of their workplaces including the city's IT corridor on Rajiv Gandhi Salai. Seven activists of a pro-Tamil outfit climbed the historic Pamban railway bridge in Rameswaram and held a dharna.
When they were removed by police, they threatened to jump into the sea and commit suicide if they were arrested. Tension prevailed in Kandipatti village in Sivaganga where 'Manju Virattu' (bull chasing) was organised with 100 bulls. Police baton-charged to disperse the participants.
However, the protesters allegedly attacked police with stones damaging a police vehicle and reinforcements were sent to bring the situation under control. At Pasukaranpatti in Madurai district, organisers released many bulls with prize money attached to their horns on the road leaving it to youths to tame them and take the prize money.
Similar events were held near Pattukottai in which 30 bulls participated. In view of the intensifying protests, the chief minister held a high-level meeting with top officials including Chief Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan, DGP T. K. Rajendran and Chennai Police Commissioner S George. More film personalities, including actors Vishal, comedian Vivek and Sivakarthikeyan on Wednesday expressed support for 'jallikattu'.
Actors' body South Indian Artistes' Association announced a hunger strike on January 20 on the issue. Talks by State Fisheries Minister D. Jayakumar and School Education Minister K. Pandiarajan followed by senior police officials failed to dissuade the protestors on Marina beach here who insisted that the Chief Minister visit the site and give an assurance that the sport would be allowed.
Protests were held and rallies taken out in several districts including Chennai, Kanchipuram, Tiruvallur, Madurai, Coimbatore, Tiruchirappalli, Ariyalur, Cuddalore, Villupuram, Virudhunagar, Sivaganga, Theni, Thanjavur, Salem, Erode, Karur, Dharmapuri and Kanyakumari.