Chennai: The arterial Anna Salai turned into battlefield as the members of Tamil outfits and some movie personalities turned their robust Cauvery demonstrations into anti-IPL outburst on Tuesday, paralysing traffic and throwing normal life out of gear for several hours post-lunch.
The protesters want the IPL matches to be shifted to outside TN or at least postponed until the Cauvery issue is resolved to benefit the state farmers, arguing that this would bring international attention to their woes and force the Centre to constitute the Cauvery Management Board.
Police had a tough time controlling the crowd and a TV grab had one of them on his knees being repeatedly punched by a protester with several of his comrades in black shirts helping him. Film director Bharatiraja, lyricist Vairamuthu, Naam Tamizhar Katchi (NTK) leader Seeman, were among the many celebrities taken into custody after they refused to disperse with their supporters.
The IPL match between Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders started on time at 8 pm, though the two umpires got slightly delayed reaching the MAC Stadium at Chepauk from the hotel in curtained vans with heavy police escort.
The game halted briefly some 30 minutes later as five NTK members raised slogans and hurled chappals into the ground. They were taken away by the police and detained. They had sneaked into the stadium with tickets, dressed in red T-shirts and wearing CSK headbands.
The stadium had become virtually a fortress with about 4000 policemen, including commandos and the Rapid Action Force, deployed for the IPL tie, the first since 2015.
“Most of the fans managed to get into the stadium, though a few got delayed due to the protests en route. Of course, some of them with tickets could have chosen the safe comfort of home TVs rather than risk wading through the angry Cauvery crowd”, said a senior police officer captaining a segment of the beleaguered force at Chepauk. “Our big challenge would be to ensure that these fans got back home safely”, he said, sounding worried.
IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla reiterated that the Chennai matches would go on as per schedule — 10 April to 20 May — and it was up to the police to ensure security to the players and spectators. He had met the Union home secretary Rajiv Gauba earlier in the day to plead for Central intervention to ensure that the Cauvery protesters do not derail the IPL matches. "The home secretary spoke to Tamil Nadu DGP and asked him to ensure that there were no security issues for the fans", Congress leader and senior BCCI official Shukla told PTI.
But then, the robust Cauvery protesters are just as determined to disrupt cricket at Chepauk. "We will not allow the IPL matches to go on when our Mother Cauvery is thirsty", said Bharatiraja, while his Kollywood colleague Ameer warned: "If need be, we will even take up arms such as crowbars and . Even human intelligence is a weapon".
VCK spokesperson Vanni Arasu was more acerbic in his attack, declaring that if the Tamils continued to be slighted and their rights denied, "this agitation will intensify and the youth could take up arms". He slammed the TN CM for ignoring the Cauvery sentiments and permitting the IPL whereas his Kerala counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan ordered the government buses off roads when the opposition parties called for bandh to protest against the recent SC/ST order of the Supreme Court.
While Vanni Arasu backed the Cauvery protesters who disrupted the IPL match by throwing chappals into the ground, former state minister Gokula Indira said the irresponsible act would show TN in poor light....