There might not be a Marina beach in Coimbatore, but the numbers, mood and spirit were no less than what is going on in Chennai. College students by the thousands took to the roads and converged at the VOC Park Grounds here on Wednesday protesting to revoke the ban on jallikattu.
The small trickle that started on Tuesday afternoon - egged on by news, pictures and comments on social media over the protests in Chennai and Alanganallur – erupted into a few thousands by the evening, and by Wednesday afternoon had turned into an ocean of protestors.
Though peaceful, the large numbers could not be contained on the grounds and spilled onto the roads, forcing the authorities to divert the traffic. Most students had assembled at the CODISSIA Trade Fair Grounds and travelled down Avinashi Road in two and four-wheelers to reach VOC Park Grounds in a rally.
There is no violence, but anger and a conviction to see that their demands are met by the State or Central Government. There is however, an outpour of resentment against People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which they believe had begun the whole legal battle.
The interesting thing in the Coimbatore protest is that there is no single person or group mobilising the 22,000-strong crowd. A student from the Coimbatore Government Law College said that no one spoke to anyone or convinced anyone. Students came on their own as they got to know the developments from social media.
S. Madhikannan, speaking on behalf of more than 200 Law students, asserted that it did not matter who took the lead, the Centre, State or even the Supreme Court, what was needed was immediate legalising of jallikattu.
While a 5,000-stong crowd had been on the grounds till 11 p.m. on Tuesday, many went home to return in the morning. But Wednesday night is not going to be thus with most of the protestors deciding to stay back.
A group of girls said that Tamil Nadu had always been a soft target for the politicians and the Centre and hence was treated with nonchalance. “But from now on it is not going to be so. We stayed away without taking up many issues. We know it was wrong. Now we have woken up. Politics was considered dirty, hence we did not get involved, but we are now resolved to clean up this muck and get what is rightfully ours,” they said.
Their main demands include, closing down PETA and revoking the ban against jallikattu. If their demands are not met, they plan to burn their voter IDs or fast until death, and bring all concerned who were involved in the ban, to book.
Students had gone on air at 8 a.m. on Wednesday morning and given the Government nine hours to come up with a solution. Failing this, the next step of protest would be decided. When asked about their next step, a student said: “How our protest will change depends on the response from the Government.”
With no news from Chennai too, the silence from the State Government is seen as total apathy. Towards 3 p.m. there was some slogan shouting against Chief Minister O Paneerselvam. Some party representatives who tried to enter the venue were unceremoniously sent back by the protestors.
Support for the protest from various quarters is there for everyone to see. A steady supply of food and water from sponsors is being put in place. S. Maheswaran, a telecom employee from New Zealand, vacationing in Thanjavur, rushed to Coimbatoreon Tuesday night to help mobilise sponsors for food and water. Many parents had catered for food and water on Tuesdayevening and night.
Though the protestors are not too open about their next step, it is clear that it is not going to remain peaceful if they do not get a response soon. There are murmurs about train roko, road roko, and even something serious like bringing in bulls from nearby villages and conducting a symbolic jallikattu on the grounds.