Jallikattu: When Cops Turned Assailants
‘I was sitting quietly, when the children (pillaigal) came running in distress. Several were bleeding. Then the women came out and tried to calm the police down. I went and asked them why they were beating the children. That is when they beat us. I got hit by a lathi on my right buttock. I cannot sit or stand. The police were throwing stones and behaving worse than rowdies. The policewomen were worse. They would drag people out of their homes so that the men could hit them.’ Nagarathna, 50, Nadukuppam Slum, Chennai
Several protestors from across Tamil Nadu had gathered at Marina beach peacefully demanding for the ban on Jallikattu to be lifted. Following six days of peaceful protest, on January 23, violence erupted and clashes broke out between police personnel and protestors.
Since the incident, there have been reports of police using excessive force on protestors and videos on social media showing policemen damaging vehicles and indulging in arson.
Following these events, the Chennai Solidarity Group sent a fact finding team to examine the claim of excesses used by the police. The team comprised Dr. V. Vasanthi Devi, former Vice Chancellor, Manonmaniam Sundaranar University and Chairperson, State Women's Commission; Dr. Anandhi Shanmugasundaram, Associate Professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies, Ms. Poongkhulali Balasubramanian, Advocate, Madras High Court and Chandrika Ramanujam, Thozilalar Koodam.
The team visited the sight of violence –Nadukuppam , the next day, keeping in mind the threat of destruction of valuable evidence. The team interviewed several witnesses and those injured in the course of the violence.
The report of this fact finding mission was released yesterday. As per which policemen entered Nadupakkam looking for youngsters who were fleeing the protest sight, referring to them as ‘theeviravadhigal’ (terrorists) – a claim backed by several witnesses.
Based on witness accounts and statements the team found that police personnel, including policewomen, present at the site were being physically and verbally abusive, entering homes, dragging out individuals and damaging personal property.
The report also states, that several shops and carts in the vicinity were targeted and that policewomen set fire to the fish market by using a powdered inflammable substance. As a result of which 250 women from the community have lost their means of livelihood, which is expected to have a lasting impact on their domestic economies.
Several witness accounts have also claimed that police personnel arrived at Nadukuppan armed with stones, broken bottles, petrol bombs, teargas shell and rubber bullets.
The report does not go into the merits of Jallikattu; but focuses primarily on re – constructing the events which unfolded on January 23rd and gathering testimonies from witnesses of incidents of arson and police violence. Based on the fact finding mission, the team has made the following recommendations and observations:
1. The police response was unprovoked and violates the rights of citizens of a democratic country.
2. Residents of Nadukuppam were not participating in the protest but had gone to the sight of protests for short periods of time to extend solidarity.
3. There is ample evidence – photographs, videos and oral testimonies of the culpability of the members of the police force deployed at Nadukuppam.
4. The scale and intensity of the action, with the repeated attacks, and the fact that other parts of Chennai and the state witnessed similar acts of violence suggests that these are not stray acts by lower level police, but a campaign that had the blessings of the senior leadership and their political masters.
5. Women have been the worst affected victims, as it was mostly them who were present during the clashes, since their male counterparts had at that time gone fishing.
The detailed report of the fact finding mission, along with photographic evidence can be found at