One of the famous quotes often repeated is “History repeats”. And history repeats because people fail to learn from the past mistakes and continue to do so. A quote attributed to Einstein calls it insanity to expect different result by repeating earlier actions.
Approximately for a week people protested against the ban on Jallikattu at Marina beach, Madurai, Kovai (Coimbatore) and many other places in Tamilnadu.
The protest that was organised at Marina beach was the largest of these gatherings, where many from the state had stayed day and night in the open. There was not a single disorderly instance during the protest. In all places of protests, no politician was allowed. In Tamilnadu, politicians are simply abhorred. Perhaps, this is the greatest contradiction that could be seen in the state, where personal cult followers are ready to lay their lives for the sake of their party leaders. Out on the road, common man and woman simply abhor politicians.
Earlier instances of such apolitical movements were the ones after the Nirbhaya episode, initial days of Gujjar movement before it turned into a political game and long before that anti-Mandal protests. It is not often such apolitical movements happen, but it is not that they don’t happen. I remember in 1986, when Rama Rao increased the quota of reservations, his own party youth wing rebelled against him. They re-joined the party after NTR cancelled the organisation. Student power in Tamilnadu, Andhra, West Bengal, UP and Bihar had its own great moments.
In fact, it is the ‘peace’ that prevailed during the Jallikattu protests that shook the establishment. Had there been any violence, the administration would’ve acted against them and dismembered the movement within hours (as they did much later). Though Jallikattu was primarily a Hindu practice, in the rural people of all religions do become spectators to witness the raw power of the bull and participants. The more people ridiculed Jallikattu for being only practiced in Tamilnadu and questioning its Hindu roots, the issue turned to be of a Tamil identity.
When state chief of BJP visited one protest venue, she was asked to leave. But, it was not only BJP president, even chief minister of Tamilnadu was turned away in Madurai. Till the time the decision taken to issue an ordinance to revoke the ban on Jallikattu, the movement remained apolitical.
There was a talk of anti-nationals mixing with the protestors. It is expected, of course. There was a talk that the movement was orchestrated by Christians. Of course, the allegation could be supported by the presence of some protestors and visiting celebrities. The allegation could be negated if one considers that even AR Rahman did fast in support of the protests. Except those who were known PETA members, celebrities of Tamilnadu, irrespective of their religious affiliations have supported the protests. If Hindus feel the protests were hijacked by other religious groups, then only they themselves are to be blamed, for getting into such place that could not happen in one day.
Said that, current political situation in Tamilnadu is mercurial. Post the demise of Jayalalitha, there is a political vacuum. The state government is less than a year old and those in power wouldn’t want to destabilise the government lest they may have to face elections. As there is not a person who could encash the sympathy wave, smarting from their experience post MGR’s death, AIADMK is playing safe to stabilise the government. In the worst case scenario, they may not win next election; but they could enjoy four years of uninterrupted power that could settle many a generations of their families. Exactly for this ‘fleecing’ activity and the leech mentality, Tamil people abhor their politicians.
On one hand DMK wanted to project the government as a weak one that does not enjoy the confidence of the public. The government is in such a position that ‘Chinnamma’ has emerged as the power centre. It is well known that Chinnamma does not enjoy the same confidence of people like the Amma did, but has much tight control over the administration by spreading the tentacles of Mannargudi mafia. Though Sasikala tried to get posters requesting her to take over the government, how far Paneer Selvam would allow the lady to control him is the question. On the other hand, BJP wanted to keep the boat sailing for the time being, by supporting Paneer Selvam as CM, and get supported by him at the centre in reciprocation.
There were many parleys that took place between the Union government and the State government during the time of protests and it was imperative on both governments to get the ban revoked. If the revoking of the ban is in line with the ‘native’ culture for BJP, it is the question of exercising influence over the centre that put spotlight on the CM. But, one should remember that not only the opposition DMK, but a section of AIADMK controlled by the Mannargudi Mafia is against the CM.
While the government has moved the ordinance at breakneck speed and got it promulgated immediately after the President returned to India, politically it was a victory for both BJP and Paneer Selvam. By that time, a section of protestors have started raising a new demand to find a ‘permanent resolution’ for the Jallikattu issue. By Saturday, police felt that the protestors were infiltrated by some anti-social elements.
On Sunday morning, however the police started evicting the protestors in the wee hours. Then the mayhem started. The action by police is detrimental to the image of the state government that could already exert influence over the centre and got the ordinance proclaimed. Why the police had to act against the protestors, who were till then harmless? In few hours, Marina beach and neighbourhood areas started resembling Lalchowk of Srinagar.
Never do the Tamilians cover their face when they clash with the police, for they take pride in the clash when they do it! In fact the entire Jallikattu fiasco is around the same ‘pride’ and has nothing to do with the prize money that was too little to call for such a risk. Who were these protestors who hid their faces and attacked police? And there was this instance of one policeman lighting up an auto-rickshaw. There were many reports when police (including women constables) threw stones in return on the protestors. Though the situation was brought under control in one day, this became a blot on the face of Chennai, marring the peaceful way of protesting that was the hall mark till then. To be frank, this scene was simply lifted from any Tamil mass film, wherein police and protesters use such tactics.
Suddenly the issue has become a free for all mudslinging game. Instead of answering people why the police initiated action on the protestors and the involvement of police in arson, the government started diverting the issue. More complex thing is why the BJP is involved in defending the government that is not theirs! Subramanian Swamy claimed that the protests were sponsored by ISI. If they are really ISI sponsored, I wonder why he didn’t claim this much earlier. What is he trying to prove? That the Union government is a fool and there was no intelligence on this issue? Does it not amount to questioning the capability of Ajit Doval? I don’t understand the reason and necessity to credit the protests to Pakistan’s ISI and enhance their image!
There were two questions Paneer Selvam has to answer.
Why the police initiated action and how far police are involved in the arson? And on whose orders? If the order to evacuate protesters was given by Paneer Selvam, he should explain the need. If not, the situation is graver. He should find out who could issue such orders that are detrimental to the image of his government. He shall remember Sasikala is no Sonia Gandhi and allows him to continue in the seat of power. If he feels he is not in control of the government, he better recommend dissolution of the Assembly and face the elections. He may not win the elections, but he would emerge a strong leader, as people are averse to the Mannargudi mafia. It is clear that the clout of Sasikala at national level has increased as there were stories in MSM supporting her why she can’t be given a chance as the woman, who was a companion of Jayalalitha for such a long time.
But, Sasikala knew very well, winning elections is not as simple as running a government – an administration as smooth as Tamilnadu, with all hinges properly oiled.
It is good for BJP to be with people rather than those leaders without any mass base. The experience of Andhra Pradesh post death of YS Rajasekhara Reddy should be a guiding factor for the centre to act upon. The instability that followed YSR’s death was the worst time experienced by Telugu people and the state had to be divided to end that instability. A weea state government is more dangerous to have in Tamilnadu, where in every small incident could be turned into a mega issue. Let someone talk to Paneer Selvam how he would like to be remembered in the history of Tamil politics. Better to have elections and an elected government rather than having one that functions like a web with many spiders in it.