Republic Day: Attendance Thin For Parade At Chennai's Marina Beach Road

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Chennai:  The people's participation in the Republic Day celebrations in Chennai was at an all-time low today following a boycott campaign on social media in the wake of Monday's violence in the city. A large number of seats along the Beach Road - next to the Marina Beach, which witnessed week-long protests on Jallikattu -- were empty.

The campaign on social media had asked people to boycott the celebrations as a mark of protest against what they call "attacks by the police".

On Monday, vehicles were torched near the Ice House Police station, located close to the beach, allegedly triggering retaliatory violence by the police. The police, who also came under attack while trying to evacuate people from the Marina Beach, later blamed anti-social elements, and arrested around 200 people.

A police officer who did not want to be named, estimated that around 4,000 people had assembled today at the Marina beach. During the height of pro-Jallikattu protests, 30,000 people were seen there.

M Naman, a young student, attributed the thin attendance to fear. "The police beat up the protesters. There's fear. That's why not many have come".

Two of the spectators, who had taken part in the Jallikattu protests, said the attendance at the parade had no connection with the protests. "We are patriotic. We protest against the government when required. But when it is our Republic Day, we came here to be with the government," said A Aswini. "The people remain scattered that's why it looked thin," his sister A Aarthi said.

One police officer speculated that the death of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa could be a reason for the thin crowds. "Lots of people used to come just to see her," he added.

It was Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, who stepped into officer after Ms Jayalalithaa's death. While the Governor traditionally hoists the flag on the Republic Day, the state hasn't had a Governor since K Rosiah's tenure got over last year in August. Currently, Maharashtra Governor Vidyasagar Rao holds additional charge of the state.

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