More than a year after State-wide pro-jallikattu protests reached a flashpoint on the sands of the Marina beach here, the State government has taken pre-emptive measures to stop another mass movement taking shape on the beaches. On Sunday, the Marina and Besant Nagar beaches were cordoned off.
A group of people managed to stage a flash protest on the Marina on Saturday. Holding placards, they raised slogans against the Centre and demanded the constitution of a Cauvery Management Board but were removed. The beach immediately came under police cover as anti-Centre sentiments are seen to be running high in the State once again.
After the demise of chief minister Jayalalithaa, people, especially the youth had taken up to protests in January 2017 demanding the return of jallikattu, the bull-taming sport banned by the Centre. A spontaneous gathering of thousands of people on the Marina for about a fortnight, effectively a massive peaceful protest powered largely by the social media,was seen as a movement for the State’s rights and an uprising against the Centre. Unfortunately, the peaceful protests ended in violence even as crowds started dispersing from the Marina beach.
From then on the State government has put in place elaborate security measures to prevent any further protests at the iconic stretch of the beach. In between, several attempts to congregate at the Marina were thwarted by police.
On Saturday night senior police officers including Commissioner A.K. Viswanathan visited the beach and reviewed the security arrangements. On Sunday, to prevent any protest from assuming the scale of jallikattu protests, the police stopped vehicles from entering the service road. Visitors were let in only after frisking.
“Over 1,000 policemen and officers in the ranks of deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners have been deployed in the Marina to monitor security. We have set up four watch towers and police constables are monitoring the beach using binoculars. Four All Terrain Vehicles are also patrolling the sands,” said a senior police officer.
“They did not allow me on the service road on Sunday morning. I had to leave my bike on the platform and go for a walk on Kamarajar Salai,” said M. Sivanesan, a resident of Mandaveli.
‘Expression of anger’
The police claimed they were preventing protests on the Marina to avoid inconvenience to the public but political commentators say there is more to it as massive protests in the scale of the jallikattu-related ones last year can have huge political ramifications in the State.
“If crowd mobilisation happens for the Cauvery issue, it can be as huge as jallikattu protests. This will pose a big challenge to the State, said a political analyst who did not wish to be named.
Ramu Manivannan of the Department of Political Science, University of Madras, said the BJP-led Central government was keeping the Tamil Nadu government as a foot mat.