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Jallikattu Protesters Keep Up Pressure, Govt Mulls Options
Chief Minister Panneerselvam, who met Modi at his residence in Delhi, told reporters later that the state government in conjunction with the Centre would take steps for holding the event
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Protests demanding jallikattu swelled on the streets of Tamil Nadu after agitators rejected statements by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister O Panneerselvam and the state braced for a shutdown on Friday.
Late night reports indicated that the state government could consider promulgating an ordinance to ensure holding of jallikattu or convene the Assembly for adopting a resolution in its favour.
In a virtual replay of the anti-Hindi agitation of 1960s, lakhs of students and youths took leadership of the peaceful protests across the state, while agitators in Madurai, the main area which has been hosting jallikattu sport for centuries, stopped trains pressing for their demand.
Businesses, theatres, schools and transporters have declared a day-long strike on Friday supporting the demand for immediate permission to allow jallikattu.
More eminent personalities like chess wizard Viswanathan Anand and music maestro A R Rahman extended their support.
Rahman will sit on a day-long fast on Friday.
On a day of hectic developments, Modi expressed inability on the part of the Centre in promulgating an ordinance in the conduct of the bull-taming sport but expressed support for steps taken by Tamil Nadu in this regard.
Chief Minister Panneerselvam, who met Modi at his residence in Delhi, told reporters later that the state government in conjunction with the Centre would take steps for holding the event.
"We will soon take steps with the backing of the Centre for the holding of the sport. You will soon see (the steps). All is well that ends well. Wait, good will happen," he told reporters after the meeting in New Delhi with Modi during which he urged the central government to issue an ordinance to enable the sport to be conducted.
Later, the Chief Minister deferred his return to Chennai and held consultations with legal experts including state Additional Advocate General (AAG) Subramonium Prasad. He is understood to have discussed the option of the state issuing an ordinance for ensuring holding of the event traditionally held during Pongal.
After the Chief Minister pressed for immediate steps for promulgation of an ordinance, the Prime Minister told him that the Supreme Court was yet to give its verdict on the notification of the government on the issue but the Centre would support any step taken by the state government on this.
At the epicentre of the agitation Marina, the protesters rejected the statements of Modi and Panneerselvam saying these were known excuses and disappointing.
On the third night of the protests, the students including those from schools, youth and women expressed their determination not to leave their protest sites unless the age-old sport is allowed.
The sea of youths continued to swell on the Marina beach for the third day on Thursday and staged protests in multiple forms like forming human chains, taking out motorcycle rallies, playing folk music, dancing, singing and holding skit.
Expressing solidarity with the agitators, Oscar winning music maestro A R Rahman tweeted, "I am fasting tomorrow to support the spirit of Tamilnadu."
Five-time world chess champion Viswanathan Anand too extended his support to holding the bull-taming sport, saying it was a "cultural symbol".
Extending support to the protesters, Madras High Courts Advocates Association also announced boycott of courts on Friday.
Tamil Nadu traders' federation, led by A M Vikramaraja and unions of auto-rickshaw and taxis operators and cinema houses announced a shutdown tomorrow.
Intensifying the protests, associations of workers in sectors like construction joined the protest on Marina beach and hordes of volunteer groups pitched in by supplying food, snacks and drinking water to the protesters, a chunk of whom stayed overnight on the sands of the beach.
Government employees held a protest in Ezhilagam Complex opposite the beach and IT employees too continued their protest.
Sporting paper horns, young men and women held creatively worded placards in Tamil and English, asking the state and central governments to immediately pave the way for holding of the sport.
That the crowds on Marina were apolitical became evident with both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister O Panneerselvam becoming targets of protesters, who used comedy tracks from Tamil movies like the "mixture meme" from film 'Nattamai'. Also, animal rights organisation PETA was at the centre of the attack.
Several women held banners saying "no" to talks and seeking the nod for the sport as the way-out to uphold the "Tamil pride and culture".
Traffic came to a virtual standstill on arterial Kamarajar Salai abutting the beach almost throughout the day with the agitators spilling over on to the road.
On the sands of the beach, agitators split into groups, formed circles, shouted slogans, played music, singing songs and held skits in support of jallikattu.
They ridiculed the meeting of Panneerselvam with Modi as a damp squib and the latter's assurance that steps will be taken as "ritualistic", demanding tangible results.
Protests continued to be held in other parts of the State as well, including Madurai, Salem, Coimbatore, Karur, Tiruchirappalli and Erode, besides neighbouring Puducherry by students of colleges and universities. Rail rokos were held in places, including Salem and Chengelpet.
PETA India, which is being targeted by the protesters, said it would serve no purpose.
"PETA India does not make law, we can only respect law, and so targeting PETA India can have no bearing whatsoever on the central government laws, which have been prohibiting cruel spectacles like jallikattu, bull races and bullfights for years," it said.
The People's Welfare Front (PWF) comprising CPI, CPI(M) and VCK extended support to the stir and urged the Centre to bring in necessary amendments to facilitate the sport.
PWF convener Thol. Thirumavalavan, however, saw a design behind the protesters keeping political parties away. Also, he counselled the students not to target PETA like seeking its ban, saying such an approach runs the risk of a big movement going after a small issue and thus wasting its efforts.
Leader of the Opposition M K Stalin urged the state government to call an all-party meeting immediately and convene a session of the Assembly to take steps to ensure jallikattu.
DMK has also called for rail blockade across the state tomorrow (Friday).