Jallikattu: A novel protest that left a bad taste

Vehicles and police station that was set ablaze today. Picture: Deccan Chronicle
Vehicles and police station that was set ablaze today. Picture: Deccan Chronicle

Ordinance passed. Jallikattu was conducted successfully. Bill to replace jallikattu ordinance tabled in Tamil Nadu legislative assembly on January 23. By the end of the day the bill was passed unanimously in the assembly, making jallikattu legal.

Peaceful protest that started on January 17 against the Supreme Court ban of bull-taming sport jallikattu across Tamil Nadu was bearing fruit. Ten thousands of youngsters, mostly students, who pioneered the movement were so close to basking in the limelight of their victory. It would have been only few hours before everything was over.

Yet, Chennai woke up to a tense morning, one of violence and bloodshed. A police station was burnt. There was mass agitation in the city as police personnel resorted to lathicharge and tear gas, injuring many, in their attempt to evict the protesters. Fishermen in a hamlet near Marina Beach were beaten up, a report said. By 10 a.m. the situation spiraled beyond control. Additional personnel were brought in to contain the masses, who started to protest across the city blocking traffic. People were stuck in traffic for hours, many offices shut down early as people could not make it to office and many business engagements stood cancelled. Buses and trains did not ply. Many express train were rescheduled owing to Monday’s turn of events. Even auto and cabs refused to run citing traffic and mass outrage as reasons. People were frustrated with their impotency to do anything but wait for things to calm down.

It was a violence of highest order the State witnessed in the longest time. All this for a sport, which had all chances of making it to next year.

As I was following the events that unfolded early Monday morning through television and social media, it made me ask: where did the peace of last one week go?

Students uprising Tamil Nadu witnessed last week was acclaimed as one of the best movement the State had ever seen. It was unique because, it did not involve any political parties or any celebrities. There was no ulterior motive other than to make jallikattu possible for years to come (Reasons quoted were that jallikattu sport help preserve indigenous cattle breed. For more read: https://goo.gl/MvTSgC).

Most importantly, the protesters maintained peace and did not disrupt public. Rather they maintained peace and cooperated with local police in regulating vehicular traffic and in cleaning the beach.

Everyone was heaping praise on conduct of youngsters. But all went up in a smoke, thanks to the aforementioned violence that erupted today morning. It was obvious that it was not the making of students who have been serious about the cause. When lakhs gather for a cause, it is only expected that not all have the same motive and sincerity towards it. For many who are genuine, there are as many who come just to kill time and entertain themselves. Among this crowd are few who would be waiting for a chance to incite violence and cause confusion. When a crowd is this huge and especially when there is no leader to direct them, it is only normal for such elements to join and create chaos. This is probably what happened today.

At the end of the day, things did not go the way they were supposed to. There was no sense of victory liked we hoped. Rather than appreciation, the entire movement incurred the wrath of public as it disrupted their day. It like people say: you won the war but lost the battle. Though jallikattu was approved, efforts put in by these youngsters were forgotten. It was replaced by the disturbing images of today’s violence. The way the entire events unfolded morphed the moment of euphoria the movement deserved. 

If any such movements were to happen in future, it would always draw skepticism and that would be justified. In short, it is probably a lesson that teaches us: for all the hope they gave the people, even a novel protest can leave a bad taste. 

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