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TN Assembly passes law for Jallikattu, protest turns violent before ending

S Murari | Updated on: 11 February 2017, 5:45 IST

The Tamil Nadu Assembly, in a special sitting on Monday, unanimously passed a law to replace ordinance promulgated last Saturday for the conduct of Jallikattu, amid sporadic violence in Chennai and other parts of the state.

Late in the day, the week-long agitation at the Marina Beach in Chennai came to an end, after the police brought in a former High Court judge to explain to the agitators that the new law would stand up to legal scrutiny.

The new law

The Bill, tabled by Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, was adopted without a debate after he told the house that there were no more legal impediments to the holding of Jallikattu since the promulgation of the ordinance, and villagers could go ahead and organise it.

He said that the ordinance, which the Bill seeks to replace, had got the clearance of the President and sought to amend the relevant sections of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, to bring it in harmony with the Central Act.

This was to ensure that it did not meet the fate of the earlier 2009 Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Regulation Act, which was struck down on the grounds that it was in conflict with the PCA Act, he said.

Further, through amendment to Sections 22 and 27 of the PCA Act, the government has removed bulls from the list of performing animals, and included it in the exempted category, like army horses and dogs.

The Bill has built-in safeguards to ensure that neither the bulls nor the tamers come to any harm, and spectators are also segregated. It prohibits the use of performance enhancing drugs, alcohol and other forms of cruelty listed in Section 11 of the PCA Act.

Even so, by way of abundant precaution, the Tamil Nadu government counsel filed a caveat in the Supreme Court, that it should be heard while entertaining any petition challenging the new law.

Police crackdown at Marina Beach

Earlier, in a state-wide crackdown, police broke up protestors demanding a permanent solution in Chennai, Alanganullur, Madurai, Erode and Coimbatore.

The worst affected was Chennai, as police moved in large numbers towards Marina Beach early in the morning and physically removed the agitators to pave the way for the Republic Day parade, which is held on the beach road on 26 January.

While most of the boys and girls dispersed on their own after the police intervention, a band of 5,000 hardliners moved closer to the shore and formed a human chain.

Violence erupted as college students and fishermen in slums near the beach clashed with the police when they tried to march to the beach in support of their beleaguered fellow agitators.

Stone-throwing mobs set fire to vehicles near Ice House police station close to the beach. Soon, violence spread to adjoining Thiruvellikeni, where bands of youth weaved in and out of lanes and bylanes to target the police.

The worst scenes of violence were witnessed outside the Parthasarathi Temple in the area, as youth torched vehicles and hurled bricks at the riot police.

All roads leading to the beach were blocked. As violence escalated, city buses were taken off the road, stranding thousands of office-goers and college and school students.

By and large, police acted with maximum restraint, taking the brunt of the violence.

How the agitation ended

To defuse the agitation, police brought in former Madras High Court judge V Parathaman, who assured the agitators that the special law would stand judicial scrutiny, and pave the way for the trouble-free conduct of Jallikattu. Following this, the week-long protest at Marina Beach came to an end this evening.

Meanwhile, Jallikattu activists like K Sivasenapathi of the Kangeyam Research Foundation, and Rajasekhar of the Jalikattu Peravai, who had been involved in the struggle since 2006, were invited to witness the special Assembly session, along with film director Gautham and star Lawrence, to convince the agitators to call off their protest.

Protests in other areas

Police used lathis to disperse men and women in Alanganallur, near Madurai, who refused to call off their agitation despite the village committee's announcement, under pressure from the local administration, that Jallikattu would be held on 1 February despite the vitiated atmosphere.

When protestors refused to disperse, police resorted to lathicharge, in which many women were injured.

In other places, the agitators only offered passive resistance. Till evening, police engaged thousands in a sit-in on the Tamukka Maidan in Madurai.

In Erode, the agitators moved from the VOC Park to the bus stand, leading to lathicharge in four places. The agitation also continued in Coimbatore, when youth fleeing from Gandhi Nagar reassembled in the bus terminus.

However, agitators called off their protest in Melur near Madurai and in Perambalur near Tiruchi.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

First published: 23 January 2017, 8:09 IST