January 23, 2017

NEW DELHI (AP) Fans of a traditional bull-taming ritual in southern India went on a rampage on Monday, attacking a police station with stones and setting dozens of police vehicles on fire Monday in anger at being forcibly evicted from the beach where they been protesting for the past week in support of the sport.

Jallikattu involves releasing a bull into a crowd of people who attempt to grab it and ride it. It is popular in southern Tamil Nadu state, but India's top court banned it in 2014 on grounds of animal cruelty.

Jallikattu events were held Sunday after being allowed to resume under an executive order, but the protesters remained at their campsite to demand the ban be lifted permanently.

Police officer Balakrishnan said police moved on the protest campsite early Monday after thousands of people refused to leave Marina beach in Chennai, the Tamil Nadu state capital.

Police cordoned off the roads leading to the beach and moved in large numbers to clear the area of nearly 7,000 protesters, said Balakrishnan, who uses one name.

Gayatri, a protester, said police used tear gas and batons to clear the area.

S. George, the city police commissioner, said the police crackdown came as groups of trouble-makers tried to break the roadblocks set up by the police in different parts of the city to prevent more people from joining protesters at the beach.

They attacked policemen with rocks and set on fire and damaged 51 police vehicles, George told reporters in Chennai.

He also said that 94 policemen sustained injuries, some of them serious, in clashes with the protesters. Police arrested 40 people for attacking them, he added.

Later Monday, the Tamil Nadu state legislature passed a new bill to allow the controversial bull-taming festival. It exempts the sport from the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

Police were trying to remove hundreds of people still at the beach who have formed a human chain at the beach with some even standing deep in the water.

After jallikattu events resumed Sunday in Tamil Nadu, two men were gored to death and dozens injured in the village of Rapoosal, the Press Trust of India reported.

Animal rights activists also call the sport cruel and unsafe to the animals, who often have chili powder rubbed into their eyes and have their tails broken as crowds try to grab them.

The new legislation that allows the sport to resume bypasses a 2014 directive from the Supreme Court. But it could be appealed in court by animal rights groups. The Supreme Court is scheduled to take up the case again later this week.

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