January 19th was an ethereal night at the Marina Beach. The lights had been turned off, as the government wasn’t inclined to support the movement. No sooner did darkness engulf one of the longest beaches in the world, a million tiny lights started glowing. The milling crowd had brought the stars down, with candles and mobile torches. They didn’t want to take the bull by the horns, they wanted to embrace its hump. They wanted to save jallikattu.
Jallikattu is an ancient bull taming sport, celebrated during the harvest festival of TamilNadu state in India. Many references to this sport are found in the relics of the Indus Valley civilization from 5000 years ago and in ancient Tamil poetry known as Sangam literature (2nd BCE–2nd CE). The details of the sport’s history, the ban, the cause for this protest, is explained in this article: https://thewire.in/19157/banning-jallikattu-will-decimate-indias-indigenous-cattle-breeds
My blog here isn’t about the cause, it is about the spirit of the protest.
What intrigued me most was, what made millions of people to take to the streets to protest, when they had no leader to lead their cause, no celebrities to influence the awakening and no organizations or political affiliations to promote the movement. What had stirred people into action, to mobilize themselves into a force to be reckoned with? A force that had instigated the government to revisit the ban.
While pondering about this spirit, I gave in to the temptation to compare the end of last year with the start of this year. 2016 has been a year of significant world events, beckoning the human race with fresh horrors. The Syrian civil war and the worst humanitarian catastrophe at Aleppo, weakening of Turkey’s democracy post the failed coup attempt, the vigilante campaign against drug trafficking at Philippines and its foreign policy impact on East Asia’s geopolitical landscape, North Korea’s missile and ballistic nuclear tests, Britain divorcing from the European Union, the US Presidential elections, the terrorist attacks in Nice, Belgium, Pakistan, Kashmir, and Orlando, and gosh, the list goes on. The divisive rhetoric across social media has turned us into factional human beings, tempted to retreat and stay in separate camps.
The protest in 2017 at Marina beach, though had a divisive kick off, later turned out to be a reassuring one. It isn’t an agent of chaos, it is an agent of change. It is a catharsis, a spirit stronger than the divisions of gender, religion, caste, creed and political inclinations. It is a mélange of men and women, young and old, individuals and families, the strong and the physically challenged, all gathered together for saving an animal breed and to facilitate reforms for farmers struggling for their livelihoods. The support it drew across the globe – USA, UK, Australia, Dubai, Sri Lanka and from many more countries was overwhelming. It instilled the power of non-violence, the doctrines of equality, mutual respect, and compassion for fellow protesters, civic sense in not destroying public assets and maintaining cleanliness, expediency in arranging facilities for safe protest operations, collaboration among the police force and the protesters, openness to include supporting causes to the protest, aspects which were rare to witness in the world’s recent past were displayed in all their glory.
There is a saying in the Tamil language: ‘Ippadai thorkin eppadai vellum?’ I am doing no justice in retaining the essence of this saying while translating it to English, but still giving it a try. ‘If this army doesn’t succeed, which army would?!’ And they did indeed!!! January 23rd, necessary amends to the bill were made and the legislative assembly approved it. The ban on jallikattu was lifted, and the people sighed with relief! The protest was concluded a success, though there were certain miscreants within the police force who tried the disrupt peace on the last day, but the protesters came out strong from this ordeal too!
This movement convinced me that dark moments in history aren’t the end, the pendulum will always keep swinging to compensate the good and the evil in this world and we need to preserve the good, even if is often not easy to find.
PS : I’ve availed certain pictures from Facebook groups with their permission.