Dressed in a black Kurta and a white cap to shield herself from the harsh sunlight pouring into the Marina beach, 35 year old Angayarkanni climbs on to a raised platform to rousing applause. The advocate from Chennai holds her hand up, asking the group of over one hundred seated around her to settle down. As protesters put their 'We want jallikattuâ posters down, she asks the crowd- âHow dare the Government forcefully build a nuclear plant in Kudankalam, ignoring the protests of our fishermen?â
This gathering held a stone's throw away from the Bharathi Dasan statue, is an example of the widening narrative that is being adopted following the promulgation of the ordinance on Jallikattu. Lack of relief for drought affected farmers and the Cauvery dispute was discussed at length at Marina.
Many see this as an outpour of the underclassâ anguish against various governments. Some others are concerned about the anti-nationalistic overtones in some of these conversations.
Aadhi, an artist popularily known as âHiphop Tamizhaâ who was at the forefront of the protests distanced himself from the movement saying he had been hurt.
In a Facebook live stream, Aadhi said, âMany people asked me why I left Coimbatore in between a protest. I did not leave because of fear, but I left because I was hurt. I have been associated with the cause since 2006. When the protest started, it was decided that Karthikeya Sivasenapathy (Senapathy Kangayam Cattle Research Foundation) and P Rajasekaran (President, Jallikattu Peravai Tamilnadu) would be the ones who will lead us, and be projected as the opinion leaders," he said.
"When I was in Coimbatore for a whole day, certain events that happened there really hurt me," he added.
Going on to narrate the events that unfolded, he says, "I was speaking on the microphone at an event, when I was approached by a group of youngsters, who asked me to participate in a parallel event that was taking place."
"However, what I witnessed there shocked me, as they were walking all over the Indian flag and indulging in other anti-national activities. I'm for the Jallikattu protest, but there is no compromise to my identity as an Indian. When I refused to speak at their event, they challenged me saying that I should participate if I was a true Tamizhan," he claimed.
"In another place, I saw a man announcing on the microphone that the Indian government only works for Hindus and not for Muslims. How did this become a Hindu-Muslim problem?" he remarked.
"I also saw a poster with my face and a lot of abuses for PETA. I have opposed PETA's policies at many points, but I have never spoken against them as an organization," he said.
"I then left the place and while I was on my way to Madurai, Rajasekaran told me that the ordinance was coming and victory was near. Meanwhile, I kept seeing these parallel events taking place. At one place, one person claimed that if Pepsi and Coke were not banned, he would kill himself," he said.
"When the ordinance came, we were busy discussing if it was a temporary solution or a permanent one, but already many agendas were being played out. There were also people who said we should attack Modi. If these people want to go ahead with their anti-national agenda, then they should chose other forums, and not do it when so many people, with their families, were protesting peacefully."
"Fearing that the protest was going in the wrong direction, I backed off. I'm not affiliated to any party or association. I was only part of the protest as a true Tamizhan," he said.
Though Hiphop Tamizha and few others announced that the ordinance was the best solution available for now, many protesters refused to leave Marina.
V Sanga Thamizhan, a 22 year old architecture student says, âOur very own Government has given up as far as the Cauvery dispute is concerned. Our farmers are being denied of water that is rightfully theirs. Why is nobody questioning the Karnataka Government for defying the SC order?â Armed with information gathered from his last 5 days of protest at the Marina beach, he claims, âThis protest is merely a starting point for a movement that will address larger issuesâ.
The anger amongst the protesters is not limited to the State and Central Governments. A larger wave of resentment is building up against multinational companies which are allegedly sucking dry, the resources that rightfully belong to farmers. 'How can foreign companies be allowed here?' asks 30 year old Uma Maheshwari, who works in a private firm in Chennai. âCoca cola and Pepsi must be banned in Tamil Nadu for exploiting our water resourcesâ.
Uma is not alone in this concern. Along the marina beach, several shopkeepers have expressed solidarity with protesters, choosing to stock their shelves with Indian alternatives to the popular soft drinks.
26 year old civil engineering student Surendhar PM has been protesting for the the last 5 days. âThe Jallikattu protests have brought us together. This platform has led to discussion on several issues including the corruption in the education system. Parents are being forced to pay crores of rupees to corrupt educational institutions. These protesters will take up this cause. '
But not everybody at the site of this protest is in agreement with the turn this agitation is taking. 60 year old Kalivaradan, who has been taking the bus from West Mambalam to Marina for the last 3 days claims that the cause is being' diluted'. âWe can't address multiple issues at onceâ, he says. âWe must see through that the ban on Jallikattu is lifted before we shift our focus. Success cannot be achieved without a single minded focusâ.
This agitation, protesters say, has become a manifestation of decades worth of resentment against the system.