Protesters and police locked horns in the city on Monday as law and order took a turn for the worst with images going viral of police personnel torching auto rickshaws parked on the streets.
Reacting to the photographs, Chennai city police commissioner S George refuted the charges, stating that the video “appears to be morphed”.
“It is ridiculous to blame the police. We have given the video footage to our cybercrime wing for analysis,” he said.
Police personnel tried to control crowds gathered near Vivekanandar Illam as resilience turned to violence with stones being hurled and vehicles being vandalised.
Chennai city police, monitoring protests held on Kamarajar Salai off Marina beach, were forced to evacuate protesters. Police say senior officers conducted various rounds of talks with the agitators before they were forced to use “mild force” to remove them from the location.
One of the protesters, Loyola College professor Andrew Sesuraj though said there were instances of police excess.
“Policemen went on attacking people and vandalised vehicles parked on the road. They also forced shopkeepers to down their shutters,” Sesuraj said.
“My motorbike was partially damaged after a team of policemen hit it. They also attacked an old man and couple of innocent women walking on the road on Seventh Street of Anna Salai in Sastri Nagar,” he added.
A grab from a video that went viral, showing policemen damaging public property
On another stretch of the Marina, a platoon of police personnel tried to remove protesters, as they charged towards the sea, forming a human chain of resistance along the shoreline.
Protesters were heard shouting out that even though Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam had brought in a special ordinance to conduct Jallikattu or the bull-taming sport, it did nothing for their demand that the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act be amended.
But efforts by the police to quell the mob, for most part seemed impeded by a lack of preparedness as well as coordination between senior officers.
Attempts by the police to diffuse the crowd with tear gas, for instance, failed as most of the rounds of ammunition fell to the ground due to a malfunction.
In another incident at Nadu Kuppam, more than a dozen probationary sub-inspectors were injured as they were caught off-guard and without safety gear when a mob hurled petrol bombs at them.
With the pro-Jallikattu stir in Chennai degenerating into extensive violence on its seventh day and the state appearing to have lost the plot, several actors on Monday appealed for peace and calm and urged protesters to halt the demonstrations.
Superstar Rajinikanth posted a statement via his Twitter handle in which he urged protesters not to allow anti-social elements to capitalise on their struggle.
Asking them to call off the agitation, he said the victory of peaceful and disciplined protests against the ban on Jallikattu by students, youth, women and all sections of Tamil people, which earned widespread attention and appreciation.
Actor Kamal Haasan, who has been vocal in his support for Jallikattu and the protests, tweeted: “This is a mistake. Aggressive police action on students’ passive resistance will not bear good results.”
He also expressed concern about violence in Alanganallur, one of the key venues for Jallikattu.
The actors’ appeal came on a day that the Tamil Nadu assembly passed a bill to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, permitting the bull-taming sport and effectively replacing its January 21 ordinance to legalise it in the state.
Radio jockey and actor R J Balaji requested the protesters to go home, saying the ordinance that the state government promulgated was a sign that the protests over the past week were a success.
“Instead of celebrating the first success [the ordinance], why are you taking part in violent protests?” he said in a video widely circulated on social media.
He later told television reporters on Marina that lack of leadership among the protesters led to confusion among the protesters.
Actor Raghava Lawrence, one of the main proponents of the pro-Jallikattu protests on Marina Beach, thanked CM Panneerselvam and his government and said it was time for students to give up the agitation.
After the state assembly passed the Bill revoking the ban, filmmaker P Bharathiraja composed a poem questioning the violence during the agitation and urged Tamils to identify the culprits.
Actor Sivakumar, drawing a comparison between the pro-Jallikattu agitation and the 1960s anti-Hindi agitation, applauded the protesters for their “historic victory”.