The six-day-old stir over jallikattu turned violent after an early morning crackdown on the protesters here, leaving over 20 police personnel injured even as the Tamil Nadu assembly moved swiftly and passed a bill replacing an ordinance for conducting the bull taming sport.
A senior police official told PTI that 90 per cent of the protesters at Marina beach, the epicentre of the agitation, predominantly by students and youth, had vacated the area by late evening and that normalcy was being restored. Reports said most protestors in other parts of the state like Madurai, Erode and Coimbatore were either evicted or had left on their own, heeding the appeal of police.
However, the crackdown had a ripple effect in the city and elsewhere, where normal life was affected, with protesters staging road blocks and state transport buses being withdrawn at many places. The government moved quickly to get the amendment bill to replace the jallikattu ordinance promulgated two days ago, passed in the assembly in the evening session. The “Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment), Act, 2017”, piloted by Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, was passed by voice vote with the support of opposition DMK and other parties.
It said the “Government of Tamil Nadu has decided to exempt jallikattu from the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.” On an eventful day, police set on an early morning crackdown at Marina after issuing an advisory asking students to leave.
They said students’ protests had been successful as jallikattu had been held yesterday following the state issuing the ordinance. Former Madras High Court Judge Hari Paranthaman also spoke to the protesting youngsters, explaining to them the technical specifications of the state government’s amendment to the PCA Act. According to a senior police official, “90 per cent of the protesters at Marina Beach have left.”
Earlier in the day, protesters fought pitched battles with police at several areas, especially around Marina Beach from where thousands were evicted.
They blocked roads at various parts of the city with the week-long agitation taking a violent turn. Traffic was thrown out of gear as the agitators took to the streets, with some attacking policemen and their vehicles.
Police fired teargas shells and resorted to lathicharge at some places as sections of protesters, removed from Marina in the early morning crackdown, pelted stones. They went on a rampage, setting vehicles on fire at a few places, including in front of Ice House Police Station near the beach. While vehicles were gutted, the front portion of the station and the name board were damaged in the fire. Similarly, some vehicles, including cars, were set on fire by unidentified persons near Nadukuppam.
Several schools shut early in view of the sudden turn of events, while city buses were halted as a preventive measure. However, suburban electric train services were operated on most routes.
In tell tale signs of the violence several nook and corners of Triplicane, which abuts the beach, were strewn with stones, bricks and broken tree branches.
Police said protesters threw sand and water packets at them at the beach area and as a result they had to use “mild force”. Meanwhile, Attorney General S Muthukumaraswamy informed the Madras High Court that 20 police personnel were injured and hospitalised and 25 vehicles were burnt.
He also said anti-social elements had infiltrated the protests since the last few days. At the sprawling Tamukkam grounds in Madurai, one of the main venues of the pro-jallikattu protests in southern Tamil Nadu, police convinced a large number of people to leave. The local village committee at Paalamedu, a famous jallikattu venue in Madurai district, decided to organise the sport on February 2.
One policeman was injured when he was gored by a bull at Watrayiruppu in Virudhunagar District, police said. In Salem and Madurai, police managed to release rakes of two trains blocked by protesters since the last few days after the latter gave up their protest.
Railway officials in Salem said the diesel locomotive and coaches were found damaged and estimated it at around Rs 60 lakh.
They said traffic in the Salem-Vriddhachalam sector, which remained hit, would be restored soon. In Madurai, police made a baton charge on the protesters to release empty bogies of Coimbatore-Nagercoil passenger train, which were detained by them for five days. Police said some persons were injured as they run for cover and fell down while fleeing.
Coimbatore also witnessed violence, with sections of protesters pelting stones at police, who used batons to disperse them at various places, including VOC Park Grounds. In the melee, three police personnel and a few students sustained bleeding injuries and hospitalised, police said. Vehicular traffic, including government buses, plying in the area was stopped, during the tense period.
Nearly 300 people, who were arrested near the central jail and accommodated in marriage halls, refused to take food and announced a ‘hunger strike’, police said. Earlier in the day, police foiled an attempt by a student to self-immolate, protesting the eviction.
Several caveats were filed in the Supreme Court seeking prior hearing if pleas challenging the new Bill passed by Tamil Nadu assembly allowing bull-taming sport Jallikattu in the state, come up for consideration.
Nearly 70 caveats were filed by several individuals and organisations from various districts of the states in the top court.
The caveats were filed a day after O Panneerselvam-led AIADMK government moved the apex court seeking a prior hearing before any order is proposed to be passed in the matter.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment), Act, 2017 piloted by the Chief Minister was today adopted unanimously by a voice vote after a brief debate. The Bill would now be sent for approval to the President.
Advocate Prabhu Rama Subramanian, who filed several caveats on behalf of various individuals in the court today, said the apex court registry has cleared around 16 of caveats.He said that several pro-Jallikattu groups and people have been approaching the lawyers in this regard.
Yesterday anticipating challenge to its ordinance, the state government had filed the caveat through its counsel Yogesh Kanna.
Tamil Nadu Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao had yesterday approved the Jallikattu ordinance, with Chief Minister O Panneerselvam announcing that the bull taming sport will be held at Alaganallur in Madurai and other parts of the state.
The Supreme Court had on Friday agreed not to pass a judgement for a week on the Jallikattu issue after taking into account the Centre’s submission that they were in talks with Tamil Nadu to find a way out in the matter.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had then mentioned the matter before a bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and R Banumati that people of Tamil Nadu were “passionate” about Jallikattu and the Centre and the state were trying to resolve the issue.