CHENNAI: Jallikattu protests blocked several roads today in Chennai, including its IT corridor, as protesters forced out of the Marina Beach clashed with the police in various parts of the city. After peaceful protests since Tuesday in support of the bull-taming festival, clashes erupted for the first time today as policemen physically removed thousands from the Marina Beach – the epicenter of the protests – and in Madurai and Coimbatore. The police blamed the violence on “anti-social elements” who had insinuated themselves in the crowds and Maoist forces. In the evening, a new law to end a Supreme Court ban on Jallikattu was cleared within moments in the state assembly with bipartisan support.
Here are the top 10 developments in this story:
In a crackdown days ahead of nationwide Republic Day celebrations on Thursday, a large contingent of police moved into the Marina Beach at 5 am and removed men, women and children. Some protesters were allegedly hurt when they resisted the police.
The police used teargas and batons on protesters who threw stones at them. Vehicles were also set on fire but many activists distanced their weeklong peaceful protest from the violence.
Protesting the police action at the Marina Beach, hundreds of people blocked roads and staged sit-ins across the city, leaving office-goers facing huge traffic jams.
Traffic stopped on important roads including Old Mahabalipuram Road, home to several IT offices and engineering colleges. Several schools had to shut early.
Celebrities and others condemned the crackdown on “peaceful protests” when the students were only waiting for the state assembly to pass a law on Jallikattu, which was banned in 2014 by the Supreme Court.
On Saturday, the government put out an ordinance or executive order to bypass the ban and allow Jallikattu events on Sunday. Two people were gored to death by a bull and dozens were injured.
As protesters refused to budge from Marina Beach, demanding a more permanent return of Jallikattu, Chief Minister O Panneerselvam promised that a bill would be passed in the state assembly. The bill was introduced and passed within minutes with all-party support.
Protesters were also bodily removed at Madurai’s Alanganallur, where villagers agreed to hold a Jallikattu event after it was cancelled yesterday just when the Chief Minister was to inaugurate it. 82 people have been detained by the police.
In Coimbatore, the police removed hundreds from a large ground where they had been protesting for six days.
Jallikattu, a tradition in which young men wrestle with a bull in an open field during the harvest festival of Pongal, was banned by the Supreme Court in 2014. Last year, the Centre allowed it, but that decision was challenged in the Supreme Court. The court has agreed to not deliver its verdict this week after the centre pointed out that a decision could create law and order problems.