'Vadivasal tirakkum varey, veedu vaasal tevai illai', was one of the many chants that echoed at Chennai's Marina beach. Tens of thousands of people have been protesting for the ban on Jallikattu to be revoked. For four days now, the longest natural urban beach in India is seeing a people's movement like nothing we have ever seen in recent time.
The apolitical, leaderless and a purely public movement in support of Jallikattu has left many dumbfounded. The self-motivated, extremely disciplined, highly civilised protests at Marina beach have shown the world what a civilised, peaceful protest looks like and how violence is not the way to make an impact. Make your point, make it loud and clear and you will be heard, seems to be their motto.
For four days women, men, senior citizens, transgenders, differently-abled, children, celebrities, commoners, businessmen, labourers, farmers, techies, people from practically every walk of life have come together to fight for their right to uphold their tradition. Student power, that is often used as a cultural reference in Tamil films, displayed its full potential in reality over the Jallikattu issue.
Despite thousands, including women, gathering and some even staging overnight protests, at the Marina beach, not a single incident of misbehaviour, molestation or any other crimes have been reported so far, breaking the myth that crowded places are unsafe. Not a single incident of violence has been reported. Leave alone crimes, protesters have ensured that even the slightest inconvenience to the public is not caused. Right from helping police control crowds, supplying water, food and blankets to those gathered and even controlling traffic, protesters are doing everything right.
While many may question the validity of these protests, none can deny that this is by far the largest peaceful, impactful, massive people's movement that has stirred the conscience of an entire nation.
They may speak in 'peter english', they may enjoy their burgers more than their dosas, they may like jeans more than their pattu veti selai, but giving up traditions is a clear no-no for these protesters. The movement is no longer just a protest. It has become the platform for awareness about Tamil culture, Tamil language, Tamil traditions, Jallikattu, farmer issues, gender sensitivities and challenges they face as a community. The movement has brought together people from such varied backgrounds that for once, every stakeholder is present. Youngsters are learning about things they never thought was relevant, seniors are seeing passions that they had never expected. The fire in the protest is being reflected across the world. For the first time, a college student has the opportunity to know the farmer who rears cattle, the software engineer knows what Jallikattu means.
People are supporting people in the protest. Some are supplying water, some have taken the responsibility of food, some are giving out blankets while others are helping make posters, slogans and placards to support the protest. In this leaderless protest, people have become true leaders.
Protesters have ensured that no political party hijacks the protest. No politician has been allowed to take over the protest at Marina beach. The anger is evident against PETA. Apart from demanding for the legalisation of Jallikattu, protesters want PETA banned.
Accusing the NGO of being anti-Tamil and anti-India, protesters have demanded it be banned. The protests are not limited to Chennai but are taking place across the state of Tamil Nadu. The sheer numbers gathering at the Marina forced the political class to act. On Friday, Tamil Nadu government drafted an ordinance that would allow Jallikattu and the credits go completely to the people.
It was a shame that a political party, DMK resorted to rail roko protests. While the rest of Tamil Nadu was trying its best to demand for Jallikattu but not inconvenience public, the DMK not only stopped trains and inconvenienced public but also made their protests ugly as they engaged in a tussle with the police who tried to stop them from entering the Mambalam railway station in Chennai. Now there you see the difference between a real people's movement and what happens when a political party attempts to protest.
During the day, lakhs dressed in black shout slogans demanding Jallikattu and in the night, when everything around is pitch dark, mobile phones light up the seashore as if stars have descended from the night sky. It is a revolution indeed. Jallikattu, a fight that has united an entire community.