As tensions escalated at the iconic Marina beach, the impact was visible throughout Chennai. The protests, which government authorities and police triumphantly claimed was over, had now spilt onto the roads of the city.
Arterial lanes across Chennai had been blocked by agitators holding black flags, who were demanding a ‘permanent’ solution to jallikattu. The GN Chetty road, a lane that connects T Nagar to Nungambakkam, Egmore, Cathedral road and even the Marina beach, saw over 50 people standing in unison and raising slogans against the state government. No amount of arguing on the part of the motorists could convince the protesters to let them through. Frustrated commuters watched helplessly as children from the houses nearby used the opportunity to play cricket, on what is considered to be one of the most important connecting roads in the city.
‘We were diverted from over 7 routes that we took,’ said Narasimham Jammi, an entrepreneur who was travelling from Vadapalani to T Nagar. ‘Blocking even one crucial road leads to traffic jams across the city. What’s more, there were hardly any policemen around to control this complete chaos,’ he added.
But even the traffic police could do little to stop the agitators who had taken it upon themselves to conduct protests at crucial signals. At Nungambakkam High Road, one traffic policeman, whose repeated requests and warnings were ignored by protesters, removed a barricade set up by the sloganeers himself. He then vigorously signaled for the bikes and cars to move ahead, without paying heed to those blocking the traffic.
‘We are not against the cause of jallikattu’ said Shanti Balachander, a senior citizen who was travelling from Nungambakkam to Adyar. ‘But these actions are only inconveniencing the common man. We have supported the agitation. Why are we being made to suffer?’ she asked.
At the signal near Loyola College, students took it upon themselves to regulate the flow of traffic. It was a mammoth task, considering the severity of the situation.
That is not all, several residents in the city took to social media to offer shelter to commuters stranded on the city’s roads. ‘It took me two and a half hours to get to my house in Mahalingapuram from the Chennai airport this afternoon. The commute is usually just about 40 minutes.’ said Anirudh Ramanathan, who works for a Chennai based start-up. ‘The enormity of this situation couldn’t have been more obvious. So, I put up a Facebook status offering shelter to those stranded in and around the area I live in’ he added.
With the Tamil Nadu assembly now passing the bill to overturn the ban on bull taming and prominent faces behind the protest calling for an end to it, commuters now hope that the road ahead will be smoother.