- Actor Suriya lashes out at PETA for opposing Jallikattu
CHENNAI: What had started as mere forwarding of WhatsApp texts and social media posts in support of Jallikattu, the traditional bull-taming sport that was banned by the Supreme Court, transformed into a sea of enthusiastic supporters by the end of the day, at the Marina Beach in Chennai.
It started with a handful of people at around 6 AM in the beach opposite the Vivekananda Cultural Centre. But as the day progressed, the social media campaigns swelled the crowds. There were no signs
of the crowds dispersing even as the sun began to set.
The bull-taming sport lovers had a variety of reasons for the gathering and the most predominant of their demands was the lifting of the ban on the Jallikattu, which many saw an identity of Tamil culture. Other reasons for the protest included the lathi-charge on villagers who protested at Alanganallur on Monday over the same issue.
"We have to protest!" cried 26-year-old R Malik, who said she works at Standard Chartered Scope International. "Jallikattu is our tradition. PETA (the NGO which is legally fighting against Jallikattu) is trying to uproot it and we have to protect it."
As the day progressed, not only did the number of protestors increase but also the crowd's impatience. Fervent cries were made to the chief minister O Panneerselvam to address the gathering. The atmosphere was too charged and black flags were waved furiously by some, while others displayed charts carrying captions calling for a ban on the animal welfare organisation, PETA or lifting the ban on Jallikattu.
"We have been here since 6 AM and there were only five people then," said R Madhukar, who had come from Thiruvottiyur. "We are here for three things --- the wrongful arrests in Alanganallur, to preserve our tradition of Jallikattu and to demand a ban on PETA." His friend V Dilip Kumar is a student of Velammal Engineering College and had taken the day off to be part of the agitation.
As a movement that gained traction primarily because of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, protestors made it a point to keep the internet buzzing with the updates by posting photos and videos.
There were many who heard about the protest through friends and took time out from work to be there. S Saimeenakshi Shankar is one of them. She works at an MNC in Shollinganallur and asked her boss for a little time off just to come and be part of the protest, even if it was only for an hour or so.
"I don't want someone teaching me my tradition and culture," she said emphatically. "We all know what humanity and animal welfare is about. We don't need PETA to teach us that."
Further, she said she was there to show her contempt for what happened in Alanganallur. "It was a democratic procession," Saimeenakshi stated. "Why did they have to remove the protestors using force? It is against our Constitution."
The agitation in Chennai, however, should not be dismissed as a purely student-driven rally. There were people of all ages, from various professional backgrounds who had travelled from different corners of the city, just to show their solidarity.
"We do not like the Indian government's silence over these issues," said 41-year-old S. Shankarvelu who works for a travel agency. "We have always obeyed the Indian government but now we are against them
because they are not taking a stand. Let them decide if they need us or PETA."
K Prabhakar,19, from Tirunelveli, a civil engineering student said that the government has to take a stand for Jallikattu, "The sport is being banned because of some agenda to help corporates, PETA only supports Western ideas because of which farmers in our State are suffering. So many lives have been affected by this ban, the Supreme Court should revoke it," he explained.
There were others who had come for lesser spoken about reasons.
"I want my child to get natural food and pure milk," said P Vaduganathan, a 33-year-old who has his own software business. "We need these cows. If this tradition is not there, farmers might lose incentive to breed them as they are not easy to maintain."
The people who benefitted from the congregation were the vendors selling short eats, food and beverages. This was a bright day in an otherwise gloomy, post-demonetisation time where customers had stopped frequenting their stalls as they did not want to part with change.
"Today was a good day for my business after a long time," said Mangalam, who sells water and other beverages by the beach. "I came at 7 AM and there were about 30 people. I never imagined that so many people would come," she exclaimed.
Another beverage-seller, S Mani agreed. "I came at 10 AM but did not expect it to last. I came back after lunch and it was so crowded," he said ruefully, thinking it was an opportunity he missed out on.
As the sun begun to set, the crowd showed no sign of exhaustion.
Opposition party leader M K Stalin also paid a visit at the beach expressing his support for the gathering. A section of the crowd seemed angry at the media and threw water bottle on the TV cameramen.