Students from Chennai’s major colleges have been leading from the front.

Massive groundswell for pro-Jallikattu protests Marina overflows with peoplePheba Mathew
news Jallikattu Wednesday, January 18, 2017 - 19:22

On a day when pro-jallikattu protests in Tamil Nadu swelled beyond expectations, even the statues of Marina Beach seemed to be proclaiming their support to the cause. By Wednesday evening, most of the landmark statues on the beachfront featured stylised banners with the word “Thamizhan” embossed over the heads of bulls.

The crowds they overlooked were certainly well beyond the proportions anyone had expected, particularly considering that the assumed high point of Pongal had already passed. While the protests began with a small crowd, their number had grown to around 5,000 protestors on Wednesday morning. Through Wednesday, crowds continually flowed into Marina Beach, with police estimating the crowd on Wednesday evening to be at least around 7,000 to 10,000 people.

Some police sources say that, at the peak of crowd inflow, nearly 25,000 people may have gathered at Marina Beach, which has become the nerve centre of the protests against the Supreme Court ban on jallikattu. As the crowds at Marina grew, the protest has also spilled over onto the main roads along the beach, completely shutting down traffic movement in the area.

Several representative bodies have joined the protests through the Wednesday, including lawyers’ associations and doctors’ bodies. Leading from the front have been thousands of students from a number of engineering, law and arts colleges in the city. Hundreds of students from Chennai’s polytechnic colleges have also been at the forefront of protests at Marina.

Workers and supporters of many political parties have also been participating, including the DMK, the VCK, SDPI, Congress. Activist groups like the May 17th Movement and Arappor Iyakkam have also been participating in the protests. As the crowds grew, local and national media attention has centred on Marina, with Tamil channels running continuous live reports on the protests.

Among the crowds gathered, frequent calls have been raised for Chief Minister O Panneerselvam to come meet the crowds. In an attempt to disperse the growing crowds, the police also read out on loudspeaker a statement from the CM, in which he announced that he would be meeting the Prime Minister to urge him to take legal action to allow jallikattu.

The protests have also received widespread support from the film fraternity and Tamil celebrities. A number of popular directors and actors like AR Murugadoss, Vijay, Suriya, Nayanthara, Dhanush and Sivakarthikeyan took to social media to join their voices to the growing chorus of support for the protestors.  

“I bow down to all the youngsters who are protesting for the sake of Tamil identity, without any expectations, without being instigated by any party. I will be happy if those who have been arrested because of this issue are released. I will be happy if the organisation which is behind this is sent out of Tamil Nadu," actor Vijay said in a video

Well-known figures like RJ Balaji and Hip Hop Tamizhan also went to the main protest site to meet with the protestors and show their solidarity for the movement. Music composer and actor GV Prakash reportedly participated in protests in Salem.

Studio Green Productions also tweeted that the promotion campaign in Tirunelveli and Madurai for the Suriya film Singam 3 would be cancelled to show support for the jallikattu protestors.

The Nadigar Sangam also announced a one-day fast on Friday January 20, to show support for the protestors. The Sangam also said that all shootings would be cancelled and invited all other film associations to join in the solidarity fast.

Protests have also been gathering ground at a number of other districts in Tamil Nadu. At least 20,000 people each have gathered at the VOC Grounds in Coimbatore and in Alanganallur in Madurai, with jallikattu supporters from many of the southern districts coming to Alanganallur.