Tamil Nadu chief minister O Panneerselvam is likely to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday to try and quell a over a ban on the popular but controversial bull-taming sport Jallikattu.
Officials said Pannerselvam will fly to New Delhi on Thursday to meet Modi and seek an ordinance to lift the Supreme Court ban on the sport that has sparked and fuelled anger against the state and central governments.
“(The) Tamil Nadu government will continue to take necessary steps to ensure holding of Jallikattu- CM O Panneerselvam (sic),” the AIADMK tweeted on Wednesday night amid demands by protesters gathered at Chennai’s Marina beach seeking a meeting with him.
The fresh wave of protests was triggered by the Supreme Court’s refusal last week to pass an order before the Pongal celebrations.
In this Jan 15, 2013 photo, bull tamers try to control a bull during Jallikattu in Chennai. (AP File Photo)
Both the ruling AIADMK and rival DMK have backed the pro-Jallikattu groups.
Thousands of protesters have been camping at Marina beach since Tuesday, refusing to end their agitation till the ban is lifted.
Sources said police caned some of the protesters on Wednesday night. Police say the protests have remained peaceful so far but have spread to large parts of the state.
Authorities also ordered over two dozen colleges in the city to close down on Thursday as the crowds swelled at the main protest site.
The Supreme Court had outlawed Jallilkatu in 2014 after a plea by animal rights groups which have long argued that the event — held every year in different parts of Tamil Nadu state — is cruel.
Unlike in traditional Spanish bullfighting, the animals are let loose into open fields and young men then compete to subdue them bare-handed.
Youngsters stage a protest condemning the ban on Jallikattu at Tamukkam in Madurai on Wednesday. (PTI Photo)
Critics say organisers lace the bulls’ feed with liquor to make them less steady on their feet and chuck chilli powder into their faces to throw them into a sudden frenzy as they are released from a holding pen.
The rights group PETA has released footage it says shows bull farmers doping their animals ahead of the event.
But organisers of the festival insist the animals suffer no harm and Jallikatu is an established part of Tamil culture.
Tensions have been escalating for the last week after hundreds of people were detained by police for allegedly organising local Jallikatu contests in defiance of the court ban.
Several popular Tamil film stars have voiced their support for the demonstrators as has India’s leading spin bowler Ravichandran Ashwin.
Tamil Nadu witnessed large scale protests by students in 1960s over the imposition of Hindi as the official language in the southern state, with the majority Dravidian community fiercely opposing it before the order was rolled back by the central government.