Traffic between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka was derailed for over four hours on Thursday as hundreds of frenzied people blocked the critical Hosur-Bengaluru National Highway, upset at a ‘delay’ in permission for Erudhu Vidum Vizha (bull race) at the Gobasandiram panchayat of Udhanapalli.
The mob frenzy left in its wake vandalised government buses. The crowd was dispersed after the police fired tear-gas shells and used water cannons.
Much before dawn on Thursday, early signs of trouble began to show in the Gobasanthiram panchayat that was geared up to organise the much-anticipated Erudhu Vidum Vizha, but the government order from Chennai came only late Wednesday evening.
The mandatory joint inspection of the venue by line departments was announced for Thursday morning. Objecting to the inspection on the grounds that the Erudhu Vidum Vizha was slated to start at 7.30 a.m. with or without the permission, the locals, primarily youths and their clubs with stakes in the race, started to descend on the Highway.
The spontaneous mobilisation, which was a trickle at first, began to swell into hundreds with irate mob bearing flags in hues of saffron and yellow laying siege to the highway blindsiding an unprepared police. The youth, predominantly drunk, pelted stones at government buses and at the police that were unprepared for the mob.
A revenue official told The Hindu that the G.O granting permission arrived only at 7.30 p.m. by email on Wednesday. An inter-department team was mandated to visit the site to inspect the the arrangements to ensure that they tallied with he preconditions and commitments made by the organising committee.
“But the protesters refused to listen. Fearing a law and order issue, the Collector issued permission for the race. Permission was granted even without inspecting because there was a law and order issue in hand,” said an official source. Talks with the protesters by Krishnagiri Collector Jayachandra Bhanu Reddy failed.
The event was organised by the Dakshina Tirupathi Temple Trust, whose land at Gobasanthiram was to be used for the race. While the organisers had relented and allowed the inspection, the participating youths as well as their supporters had one demand: to do away with regulations and allow Eruthu Vidum Vizha as a free for all unencumbered by guidelines.
Youth, whose primary vocation is to breed bulls to flaunt their racing prowess annually this season, felt ‘provoked’ by the administrative caveats and the “needless delay”. The spectators and the participants included youths from the border villages of Karnataka, which in itself a violation according to the many guidelines for the race.
Typically, a petition to the Collector for the conduct of a bull race is followed by a field inspection by the local revenue officials to check the conduciveness of the location for such an event. Thereafter, the district committee headed by the Collector forwards the petition to Chennai to the State level Committee, which issues a Government Order permitting the race.
Upon receipt of the G.O from Chennai, a joint field inspection is carried out to vet the organiser’s compliance with the guidelines viz-a-viz the venue. Among the detailed guidelines include a caveat of crowd limit, no prize money, no hoardings etc.
But the Bull race itself is seen as a test of local masculinities and the accompanying pride as is evident in the hoardings flaunting local boys clubs. The animals are solely bred to fetch the prize money. Often the G.O itself is influenced by political pressure, claim official sources.
Amid the frenzy with vandalised buses and government vehicles, a section of the mob was also caught playing Kabbadi with the scores of government buses filled with passengers held hostage on the highway.
After several hours, the mob were dispersed by the police that resorted to lathi charge, water cannons and tear gas shells, bed by the Superintendent of Police Saroj Kumar Thakur. Later speaking to the media, Mr.Thakur said, arrests will be made upon examining the videos of the vandalism.