DMK MP Kanimozhi sits on a red chair surrounded by men and women in black attire at the YMCA ground in Chennai. With the party's working President MK Stalin taking to the districts to gather support for the chorus against the centre, Kanimozhi has become the face of protests in the city.
DMK leaders and cadre along with members of other participating parties were detained and removed from areas where the Prime Minister was set to visit. The fact that he would be travelling by air and not even stepping foot into public roads, made no difference to the men in khakhi. But to TN's principle opposition party, it was a sign of victory.
"The protest was definitely a success," says MP Kanimozhi, referring to agitations across the state on Thursday. "The Prime Minister and Government has decided it is not safe for him to come through the streets of Chennai. He has to break a wall between IIT and Cancer institute to go for the function and he has even taken the helicopter. I think we have got the attention of the Central Government," she remarks.
Referring to the very same 'security arrangements', MDMK chief had termed the Prime Minister a coward for refusing to face the black flags that people had readied to show their anger at the Centre. And while Kanimozhi refrained from a brash statement, she accused the Centre of playing politics using water resources.
"I don't want to call anybody names. But they must understand how strongly we feel about this. Just because there is an election in Karnataka, the Central government cannot play politics using such an important resource like water," she says. "You can't play politics using that and try to win an election depriving our farmers of their livelihood," she adds.
The MP and the cadre surrounding her are all dressed in black despite the heat beating down on them. Black, one of the Dravidian colours dominated the areas around the PM's venue of visits. Black banners and flags were held aloft while hundreds of black balloons were set free into the sky. But was this enough to get the Centre attention?
"The Prime Minister did not mention the Cauvery Management board in his address at the Defence Expo. It is very disappointing," admits Kanimozhi. "Inspite of so many protests and leaders taking it up, the central government has not even given us a reassurance," she adds.
PM Modi's refusal to acknowledge the protests instigated by his visit, gives the parties little to pin their hopes on. Even the fact that the hashtag 'Go Back Modi' trended in the first place worldwide did not get the Centre to address the matter in the state. Kanimozhi however is hopeful that the Government will now understand what the people want.
"Every protest is for the government and institutions to understand what people want. I hope they will understand now what the people want," she says. "The Prime minister in the Defence expo said that we are not here to lecture but we are here to listen. I hope he is listening," she adds.
For these parties allying together for the cause, the fight is not just against the Centre.
"We said we will have a black flag demonstration and AIADMK leaders said they will show green flags. This shows their true colours. The way they detain the protesters and harass them, you can see the double face of the government," she alleged.
But even these protests have received their share of criticism especially when IPL matches that were to be held in Chennai were shifted out.
"It is not about IPL or a protest against IPL. It is a protest for people to recognise the issue," says Kanimozhi.
But has shifting matches, served any purpose at all?
"Can't look at anything in isolation when there is a protest and when people are coming together to protest. We can't look at it in an isolated way and say we are against IPL or against something else. We are not saying taking IPL away will resolve the problem," she admits. "Any protest is it to get attention of the government," she adds.
The second bout of criticism came on Thursday, when BJP sympathisers claimed that showing visitors the black flag was not 'Tamil culture'.
"There have been black flag protests against Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi in the past," argues Kanimozhi. "Black is a form of protest for us. Periyar wore black. They should understand how we feel. It is not just here, even in Pondicherry there are protests. It is a very very very strong protest against the Centre and the state government."