Defying prohibitory orders, Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK) activists on Saturday staged a demonstration here, pressing for a three-point charter of demands, including quota for Muslims. The demonstration held up traffic flow on several arterial roads for well over two hours.
Vehicular traffic came to a halt after the police barricaded all roads leading to Rajarathinam Stadium where the rally was initially planned. Pantheon Road was made one-way and closed from Rukmani Lakshmipathi Salai from 11 am to 5 pm. As a result, traffic piled up on Mount Road and the adjoining roads causing hardships to commuters.
However, the protesters shifted the venue and converted their rally into a demonstration at the traffic roundabout at Adithanar Statue. The demonstration began at 3 pm with the address of TMMK MLA Jawahirullah. Fifteen minutes later, the police started arresting the activists. The process went on till 3.50 pm by which time the police ran out of vehicles to ferry the arrested activists.
Joint Commissioner of Police (JCoP) - East K Shankar asked Jawahirullah to call off the protest and disperse or board the MTC buses brought to arrest the protesters.
Jawahirullah agreed and advised the protesters to disperse or court arrest. They complied. It took until 5 pm for the entire crowd to move out of that intersection.
Speaking at the occasion, Jawahirullah demanded that Muslim life convicts who have been in prison for over 10 years be released immediately. He also urged the State not to enforce the Compulsory Registration of Marriage Act on Muslims.
About 5,000 protesters participated in the demonstration while 2,000 of them were arrested and released later.
Around the time motorists felt the traffic bottleneck would ease, the weekend rush started, adding to pressure on road users.
Earlier in the day, the police sealed entry points into the city to prevent protesters from outside Chennai entering it. They also scanned vehicles looking for those that could be ferrying protesters. Around 1,400 protesters were arrested from different parts of the city during the vehicle checks. Those who made it to the protest venue used MRTS network to reach Egmore from where they reached the site on foot.
Earlier, the TMMK had sought police permission to take out a rally from Rajarathinam Stadium to towards Chennai Fort. They wanted to conclude the rally at the intersection of Pantheon Road and Langs Garden Road, but the permission was denied. The TMMK then approached the Madras High Court twice, but the judges upheld the police contention that allowing the protest could create a law and order problem like the attack on the US embassy here following their protests condemning a feature film, Innocence of Muslims, which portrayed the religion in poor light.