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Tamil Nadu: 28 arrested for defying jallikattu ban, animal rights activists demand imposition of President's Rule

Amid the continuing protests across Tamil Nadu for allowing ‘jallikattu’ during Pongal, the bull taming sport was conducted in coastal Cuddalore town on Thursday, defying the ban on it, following which 28 people were held.

With Pongal festivities, during which jallikattu is organised, starting on Saturday, the chorus in support of the sport grew with more sections of people, including students, joining protests in different parts of the state, including in places where it is not so popular.

On a day when the Supreme Court rejected a plea urging it to pass judgement on the sport before Pongal, functionaries of Nam Tamizhar Katchi conducted jallikattu in Cuddalore near the Tiruvanthipuram Devanathaswamy Temple premises and police arrested 28 people for violating the ban. A Cuddalore district police official said: “28 people belonging to Nam Tamizhar Katchi have been arrested for conducting jallikattu and a case is being registered against them.”

Meanwhile, animal rights activists have requested the Centre to impose President’s Rule in the state for “deliberate and malicious non-implementation” of the apex court decision.

In a letter to Home Minister Rajnath Singh, the activists said, “We request the central government to direct the state government to implement the law.. In the event that there is a continuing disregard to the law, we beseech you to exercise powers under Article 356 of the Constitution and ensure that the situation is taken under control and the law of the land is given the respect it deserves,” it said.

The letter has been written by N G Jayasimha, member of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and Managing Director of Humane Society International (HSI), and Gauri Maulekhi, Trustee at People for Animal (PFA), who are among the petitioners against the Centre’s notification.

Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy also made the demand of imposition of President’s Rule in Tamil Nadu in case the state failed to enforce the ban on Jallikattu.

Swamy tweeted, “If Jallikattu is held without awaiting SC judgment permitting it and Tamil Nadu Govt fails to enforce the law, Centre must declare President’s Rule.”

On the other hand, with the apex court declining to hear the matter, DMK blamed the Centre and state government for “not taking appropriate, timely steps” to ensure conduct of the event and announced a state-wide stir on Friday. DMK Working President and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly MK Stalin participated in a demonstration held by college students here seeking permission for jallikattu.

“I extended support for the agitation by participating in their protest. It is welcome that students are holding protests for jallikattu,” he said. He said only such solidarity and participation by students “guarded our mother tongue”, in an apparent reference to the large scale anti-Hindi protests by students in 1960’s. “Similarly, I believe that students’ agitations will protect jallikattu, the cultural symbol of the Tamil people,” he said. In a Facebook post, he urged state and central governments to take urgent steps to conduct Jallikattu by “bowing” to the sentiments of students.

In places including Coimbatore and Madurai, students took out rallies raising slogans seeking permission for Jallikattu. They held placards expressing love for bulls and stating that the animals are not harassed during the sport. Protest demonstrations were also held in the state capital. Film personalities including actor Sathyaraj, film maker Karu Pazhaniapan participated in a stir here pledging support for Jallikattu. Actor Simbu held a silent protest.

More than 10,000 people converged at a ground in Coimbatore in support of jallikkattu while protests were staged in Sivaganga, Dindigul, Pudukottai and Salem districts.

Organisers of ‘manjuvirattu’ (a form of jallikattu) in Siravayal in Sivaganga district asserted they would hold the sport as it was part of the temple custom and usage.

Students and local villagers blocked traffic at many places in Madurai, Dindigul and Sivaganga district, a report from Madurai said.

The Supreme Court had in 2014 said that bulls could not be used as performing animals, either for Jallikattu events or bullock-cart races in the states of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra or elsewhere in the country, and had banned their use across the country.

However, the Centre had last year issued a notification lifting the ban on Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu with certain restrictions, which has been challenged in the apex court by Animal Welfare Board of India, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India, a Bangalore-based NGO and others.

The SC had late last year rejected a petition of Tamil Nadu government and others seeking revision of its 2014 order.