More than 24 hours after the first batch of supporters arrived on the shores of Marina beach in Chennai, thousands of people – mostly young men, women and a few children – are still at the spot of the protests. They are refusing the leave until the Indian government pays heed to their demand to legalize Jallikattu again.
There is rebellion in the air, rooted in a sense of betrayal. There are strong under-currents of Tamil victimization, a belief that this is happening to the state because it is not part of ‘national’ politics.
But behind the passionate crowd are regular individuals who have little to do with Jallikattu. They are students and IT professionals, moved by the plight of those in the rural districts who want Jallikattu to happen. They have taken the day off from work on their own accord, and are helping each other survive on the beach and feel safe.
32-year-old Saravanan is one of the protesters who arrived on Wednesday morning. A software professional at an IT company in Chennai, he says he has taken leave today for show his solidarity with the movement.
“I will be here till the protest goes on, we don’t care about how many days it is. We want the state government to put pressure on the Centre to remove the ban. We also want PETA to be banned,” he says, calmly, but with a hint of anger.
Many, like 28-year-old Ramesh Kumar, who works for a telecom giant, have not gone home since Tuesday morning. “I have been here for more than 24 hours now. We want OPS to come and give us an assurance that the ban will be removed,” he says.
Deepak, a 29-year-old, also joins in: “We have been here from 8am yesterday (Tuesday). Now we are 5000 people here. We want the central and state governments to allow Jallikattu to happen."
But it is not just their passionate demands which define the crowd, but also their camaraderie.
"A lot of girls were staying here last night, everyone made sure that they are safe. Moreover, food and biscuits were provided to us by different people,” narrates Santosh, an employee with a private firm in Chennai.
"Even if we have just Rs 200, we go buy biscuits and water bottles for as many people as possible. This is what everyone has been doing here since last night. Also, we are making sure that if one person goes home, then another person stays here. The protest will go on,” adds Senthil, a 24-year-old worker.
Through the night, the protesters slept on the beach. The government pulled the plug on the lights, but that did not dampen their spirits. They continued raising slogans, lighting up the night with their phones.
Many also point out they have been galvanised on social media. Anand, 26, working in an IT firm, says, "We have all come together through friends in social media. We have been provided food also by different people who connected with us on Facebook and Whatsapp."