On 23rd January morning Tamil Nadu Govt. let loose brutal violence on the protestors, mainly students, who were on continual sit in at the Marina beach in Chennai on the immediate issue of a ban on the traditional sport of Jallikatu, demanding its permanent revocation. While the TN Govt., under pressure of the public outcry and the powerful movement in Tamil Nadu, passed an ordinance allowing the festival this year, many protestors were not in favour of calling off the struggle on only a partial settlement.The debate was on within the agitators when the TN police, by brutally beating up the student protestors, has added new fuel to the agitation. Reports say that when the police descended on the Marina Beach in the early hours of 23rd morning and asked the protestors to leave, more than 5000 students were peacefully complying but the police beat them with lathis and dragged them,literally provoking the gathering and also onlookers including fisherfolk living in surrounding areas to come forward in defence of the students. Thus there has been spirited fightback which has been conveniently attributed to the universal ‘’anti-nationals’’ found anywhere in the country by all Govts. needing excuse for mindless repression on peoples movements. Here too, the police promptly resorted to large scale violence and thus the site where thousands and thousands of people have sat in protest totally peacefully for days, has been turned into a battleground. Several police vehicles have been burnt, videos surfaced by afternoon showing policemen themselves torching vehicles and police are pointing their fingers at the assembly which has remained so overtly peaceful, thus clearly showing that now the State Govt. backed by the Central Govt. is not willing to tolerate the questions of the protestors anymore and also fears that the move to assure a permanent solution will gain ground, embarrassing both the Govts. which had worked out a temporary solution to meet the immediate crisis.
In fact over the past few days it has been clear that the huge crowds of students and youth gathering there and drawing thousands of ordinary people in their support, had actually articulated a larger grievance when they raised their right to celebrate their traditional sport. There is sullenness in the state on the emotive issue of the Tamils being ignored. There are issues like the GST which infringes on the rights of states, the upper caste agenda of the Govt. at the Centre , the grouse that Tamil fishermen deliberately arrested by the Sri Lankan Govt. are not adequately supported and rescued by the Govt. of India, as also the deep agrarian distress, the drought like conditions which the Centre did nothing to mitigate, lack of jobs, economic distress really worsened by demonetization where the jobs in textile and construction industry in various parts of the state have taken a severe beating. The interference with Jallikattu, perceived as a traditional Tamil sport which was under threat by a foreign NGO and the Modi Govt.’s refusal to intervene, has actually been the proverbial last straw. This cultural distress is symbolic of the distress of the people, the emotive chord struck by the issue has layers of grievances born out of the distress of the people, peasants, workers, middle classes, students and youth.
Students throughout the country, especially in institutions of higher learning, are coming out articulating the problems of the people caused by the pro corporate and anti people policies of the various govts at the Centre and in the various states. The police repression let loose at Marina Beach today on peacefully agitating students and common people must be severely condemned. Guilty police officers must be immediately punished and the attempts to besmirch the peaceful struggle of the students and the people for an issue which has the support of the entire people of the state, must be severely condemned.