A former high court judge will lead an investigation into alleged instances of violence and excessive use of police force during the jallikattu protests in Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister O Panneerselvam said on Tuesday. “If the visuals of police torching vehicles and huts are proven true, they will be punished severely,” he said.

The commission will submit its inquiry report within three months. Panneerselvam added that steps were being taken to ensure the release of 21 students arrested during the agitation in Chennai and 15 in other districts.

On Monday, the Madras High Court issued notices to the Tamil Nadu government and the state police on the alleged use of violence by security personnel in an effort to quell the pro-jallikattu protests. The petitioner had alleged that police officers had attacked peaceful demonstrations in the village of Alanganallur and parts of Madurai, and that several protestors were detained illegally.

Chennai Police Commissioner S George on Friday had rejected allegations of officers using excessive force to disperse the jallikattu supporters. He had corroborated the chief minister’s claim that the predominantly peaceful agitation was infiltrated by “anti-national and anti-social” elements that spread rumours of police violence.

Chennai’s Marina Beach was a centre for the agitation demanding the withdrawal of the ban on the bull-taming sport. Bowing to public pressure, the central and state governments had passed a Bill on January 23, revoking the ban on holding jallikattu.