(February 2, 2017)

On the 18th of January 2017, my spouse had gone to the court to meet his cousin and returned home to say that the students were protesting at the Marina despite the hot weather. He, along with his cousin had, infact, stopped to have a word with the students.

Spouse and I had gone to the Marina around 4 pm. There were around 3000 students at the Marina. The news of the students protest was spreading through the social media and students were assembling there on their own. We stayed there until around 8 pm and returned home.

The same evening, we were watching a debate on a national television on whether the student’s protest for Jallikattu was right. The remarks of some of the esteemed panelists was so ridiculous that it brought out the first outburst from me in this matter in the form of a facebook post. I had quoted in my post thus:

“It is quite funny to see the arguments against Jallikattu in the national media. Also, quite surprised at the hilarious comment of Mr. Ram that the whole Jallikattu is being fuelled by the Government and other Tamil parties with vested interests. Time for Mr. Ram to finally retire. Also, everybody is teaching us how to run our native sport – so my question here – can we please ban Holi? The chemicals used for Holi colours are not in the traditional sense right and are harmful for the skin of human beings. Ban non-veg foods, leather belts, footwear, bags, etc. as it is cruelty to animals. Ban cricket as there has been enough accidents. Ban all vehicles and particularly planes and ships as they can either crash or drown and hence, harmful for humans. Stop industrialization and development as it is depleting our natural resources. Why isn’t the PETA or the national media taking a stance on any of these? There is a deeper agenda of eradicating the native Bulls to promote the jerseys and HFs. While these cows are rich cash cows that can produce milk in larger quantities, they are grown with hormonal therapy. In the name of cash cows we are selling hormonally modified milk. Likewise, in the name of green revolution we brought in genetically modified crops and promoted urea and chemically supported farming. All these have brought in newer diseases like cancer which is prevalent amongst even children. In the process, our native foods like Millets, which grow without the support of fertilizers and are the food of the land are forgotten. Likewise, we are killing our native breeds. These, and not the protest of the young students, are a part of deeper vested politics Mr. Ram. Tamils have been slowly divested of their culture and identity. Our history says that the Indian freedom struggle started in Tamilnadu but that of course, is not part of any history book. We have always been scoffed upon as a peace loving and non-participating community. However, let it not be forgotten that we are the oldest civilisation and hence, the most evolved of all people. It will take people many thousands of years to understand us. Only because we are a highly evolved and disciplined culture, are we fighting for our rights in a very peaceful manner.”

In many ways, I would say it was the callous approach of the national media, scoffing at anything related to Tamil and Tamilians, not even getting the terms right, not bothering to understand the background of the sport, the careless statement that were uttered in the media about the people, and the underlying feelings of not being given our due recognition, as a people, were the predominant emotions that made us (spouse and I) go back to the Marina the next day in the morning.

To elaborate on the same, how many people who are talking Dravidian culture and Tamil culture know that Tamil culture was part of the Dravidian culture which spread across India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Maldives, Bangladesh, Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Phillipines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Today, there is growing evidence that the Indus Valley Civilisation is none other than the Dravidian culture which is credited for well-planned city layouts, advanced urban planning, extremely well planned water supply systems, elaborate drainage systems, new techniques in handicrafts (carmelian products, seal carving), metallurgy (copper, bronze, lead, and tin), baked brick houses, and clusters of large non-residential buildings.A little closer to the current period, if one were to explore the Indian freedom struggle, history is proof that the struggle commenced down South, with the earliest people standing up against a British Rule in India were Puli Thevan (Mid 1750s to late 1760s), Veerapandiya Kattabomman (1770s – 1780s), Marudhanayagam. These were the early revolters to British Raj. Organised mutiny against the British Rule in 1850 in the form of the Sepoy Mutiny also originated in the South in Vellore. The erosion of these identity of the Tamilian and the constant scoff of us being a non-participative community was the moot emotion that made us go to the Marina.

We went to the Marina at around 10 am and saw that the crowd was pretty thin. People were slowly trickling in. Students, parents of the protesting students, general public started coming in, moved around listening to various conversations around the Marina and also listening to what was being said amidst various groups. The students were not seated together in one spot. They were split in groups spread across the Marina with each group raising its own set of slogans, having its own speakers, having its own entertainment. General public kept moving from one group to the other. It was a congregation of multiple groups in one place with a common goal and agenda of wanting Jallikattu.

Each group brought in its own set of star speakers or celebrities. Likewise, volunteers of the public started distributing water, biscuits, food, medicines to each of these groups. Vehicles of volunteers kept moving down the inner beach road distributing these materials to each and every group.

All the groups had similar demands and similar slogans being raised:

Vendum vendum Jallikattu vendum
Intha padai pothuma innum konjam venduma
Petavai thadai sei
Bring permanent solution to Jallikattu

The demands were the same:

1)Permanent solution to Jallikattu
2)Ban PETA
3)Amend PCA

The speakers in all the groups were also talking on similar topics:

1)Supreme Court has given a judgement asking Karnataka to release Cauvery water to Tamilnadu which neither the Central nor the State Government has enforced. However, the same Supreme Court has banned Jallikattu and neither the State nor the Central Government want to take a stance for the people of Tamilnadu
2)There were also nutritionists and doctors speaking to various groups about what A1 / A2 milk was, how the native breeds were getting endangered, how it was the need of the hour to avoid Jersey and HF milk and buy native breed milk, the health pros and cons of Jerseys, HFs vis-à-vis native breeds
3)There were also those speakers who spoke about the step-motherly treatment of the centre towards the state of Tamilnadu and of the general apathy of our own regime
4)There were also those who spoke about Periyar’s rationalist movement, the anti-Hindi agitations of the 60s, the Eelam Tamil movement

We came back home around 3 pm and went back with the children by around 5 pm. By then, I estimated the crowd to be around 30,000 with more people who were returning from offices joining the protesters at the Marina. Nobody stuck to one particular group of people and no group had the same speakers. Both the speakers as well as the crowd were moving around a lot with a few people commenting on social media that we were the only people protesting in shifts. This was absolutely true. People kept changing, faces constantly moving, but the demand and the purpose united them. There were volunteers handling everything from parking, traffic regulation, managing volunteers supplying food, water and other basic necessities, ensuring the smooth flow of traffic on Kamarajar Salai. The volunteers even took good care of my children by providing them with cotton for their ears when dew fell, brought caps to cover their heads, and ensured they were provided with biscuits and water.

Having watched all this and interacted with various groups, I could only come to the following conclusions:

1)People were frustrated that their nativity and identity were being slowly, but steadily removed
2)There was pride in being a Tamilian and a frustration in being treated like the underdog
3)Corporatisation of everyday life – the control that international corporates had and the influence they had on our everyday life and decisions was a great anger – this was predominantly because of the hefty prices that every item commanded, the general increase in the cost of living without much increase in the quality of life
4)A pride for native food and drink – with more people talking about millets, organic food, homegrown drinks like coconut water and fruit juices instead of bottled carbonized drinks – an overwhelming sense of nationalism and native pride
5)Having been disillusioned with the quality of life that they live – hypertension, sugar, and other lifestyle ailments that are the order of the day, people are slowly coming to the conclusion that we as a country and people were far better off being farmers and living in sync with our nativity. The influx of corporates and multi-nationals have not improved our lifestyles in any way as we had envisaged, but that it has deteriorated our quality of life
6)There was also a simmering anger against the central Government on account of demonitisation and the State dispensation in their apathy towards the common man.

By the time we came home, it was around 10 pm in the night and when we left the crowd was around 50,000 on that day.

On the third day, 20th of January, 2017, when we went to the Marina at around 10 am in the morning, the crowds were larger. As the day progressed, more college students, school students, general public started coming in. This was also the day when all the groups started showcasing our native skills apart from raising the regular slogans. There were silambattam, mayilattam, oyilattam, that kept entertaining the crowds. This was also the day when the protest became more of an oor thiruvizha.

This was the same day when our CM met with our PM in Delhi. With the news coming in that the PM had expressed his inability to intervene as the matter was sub-judice and that the Centre will support any action of the State Government, frustrations turned to anger that the demands of the common man was not taken into consideration by the Central Government. The anger was palpable with the people turning their ire on the Centre for not considering the demands of the local people, for not attaching any importance to the demands of so many crores of people across the State for their just rights. That was when rose the slogans about demonetisation and how the Centre could bring in or amend laws at short notice to meet their own political ends but not to meet the demands of the general public. Also, slogans about how laws were made for the people and not vice-versa and hence, the just demands of the people should be heeded to by the Government took centre stage.

With the news of the PM expressing inability to intervene gaining ground, the flow of people to the Marina grounds increased and the anger of the common man who rarely ever participated in any demonstration or agitation of any sort was visible with their growing numbers in the crowd. By evening the crowd was around a lakh and a half with very heavy traffic flow towards the Marina. The feeling amidst the people was, if the Government can make multiple amendments to the demonitisation announcement and restrict the use of our own hard-earned money why can’t they heed to the demands of a state of people demanding their cultural identity. The people of the state supported the Government in their move, shouldn’t it have been reciprocated by the Government in giving them their just demands.

For the first time in the history of Tamilnadu, the people from different caste, creed, and religion stood united as Tamilians forgetting their own individual identities. Some moving events were the mass prayer of the Muslims – Friday being their most sacred day – which was protected by a human chain of students from other religion and communities. The sense of unity and the pride of being a Tamilian was upmost in everyone’s mind. Could see old ladies, young children, housewives all coming together yelling their hearts out asking for Jallikattu.

Amongst all this fervour, there were some people who were also saying, if being in India our sentiments are not respected, why we can’t have a separate Tamilnadu. But, from what I heard either from the speakers or the spectators, there wasn’t any conviction. It was not even a demand. It was typical of the anger when a child in a family says, “You don’t respect my needs, my demands, so why should I be a part of it?” Those were more out of anger at the uncaring attitude of the political class than a secessionist movement. The anger had turned into resentment and distrust. By late evening the crowds had swelled to around a couple of lakh with more people joining in it being the weekend.

The next morning, even though the CM had taken a lot of efforts to meet the demands of the people and bring in an ordinance, the resentment, anger, and distrust on the political class by then was far too high for the people to believe that it could be a permanent solution. By then, the people had truly become so adamant, that they wanted nothing short of a permanent solution to the Jallikattu and did not believe when told that the ordinance, when passed by the State Government Assembly the following Monday when it convened will become law. By then, there were views about how a similar route was explored earlier and how the same was squashed by the Supreme Court and nothing short of amending the PCA, which was within the realms of the Central Government, would solve the Jallikattu conundrum.

A simple solution to this would have been the CM, with a group of ministers, visiting the Marina and engaging with the agitated youths and ensuring that the law was explained to them by a group of senior advocates. This would not only have solved the problem easily and diffused the tension, but would have given the CM a chance to take centre stage and earn the respect and loyalty of every Tamilian for years to come. Instead, the Government chose to only rely on getting celebrity endorsements for the Ordinance, which only earned further ire of the common man.

What could have been a historic protest and a historic victory for Tamilian and a truly Tamil CM came to haunt the state as a historic mishandling of events as the drama unfolded. The political class had curbed the mob-fury effectively, but it has failed to address the deep set hatred and mistrust in the political class. Also, it has inflicted wounds in the hearts of the people that will leave a permanent scar in their hearts and minds forever.

Also, Read this: Tamil Spring

Watch this video: Tamil Uprising

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