Despite the Supreme Court’s stay on the Centre’s decision to lift the ban on Jallikattu (bull-taming), the people of Tamil Nadu are in a mood to go ahead with the 2000 years old tradition.
The Supreme Court’s interim stay on holding the Jallikattu (bull-taming) dampens the spirit which runs high following Centre’s decision to allow the Jallikattu. On hearing the stay, the people of Tamil Nadu have held protests in various forms such as relay fasts and hoisting black flags on roof tops to show their angers. By gauging the mood prevailed here, Jallikattu sport may take place despite the Court orders.
In Tamil Nadu the four day carnival of Pongal festival is celebrated in the month of Tamil Month of Thai (in mid-January). It is a thanks giving to the nature after the harvest by farmers. Jallikattu takes place on third day of the festival and has a tradition of at least 2,000 years old. The tradition is referred in Sangam literatures particularly in Kalithogai poems which is a part of 18 great poetry collections. In Jallikattu specially reared bulls allowed to have a free-run, the tamers have to reign them and the winners would be given prizes. There are incidents where the bulls gored the youths to death. It is also alleged that before the bulls are let in the arena, they are given tobacco, arrack and subjected to cruelty.
This prompted the animal right activists to ban game in court. Initially, the Court as an interim measure allowed them to conduct this with some conditions such as no cruelty to bulls and no injuries to the youths. In 2014, the Supreme Court banned the bull taming sport. Since then, political parties in the state are demanding to the Centre to lift the ban in the name of conserving tradition and indigenous breeds of cattle. Now people are saying that several prized bulls, like the famous Kangeyam, Puliyakulam, Thiruchengodu will be headed for the slaughter houses, if the ban is not lifted.
The Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan who represents Kanyakumari Lok Sabha Constituency assured that before Pongal, the people can expect a gift from the Prime Minister. Tamil Congress Committee President EVKS Elangovan even challenged that if the Union Minister failed to lift the ban, he should resign his post. Radharishnan reiterated the confidence and assured that the sport will be a display of tradition and will be a balance between Tamil sentiments and animal right activists.
With this background, on January 8, the Centre sought to lift the SC ban on Jallikattu by issuing an executive order exempting Jallikattu and Rakla races (bullock-cart race) from the 2011 notification which prohibited bulls being used as performing animals. BJP hailed the move by saying it is Modi’s Pongal gift to the TN people. All political parties, Tamil outfits welcomed the Centre’s decision, a rare phenomena in the state. But their joy short lived as the SC has passed an interim stay to hold the Jallikattu after hearing a batch of petitions against centre’s order.
What further added fuel to this was the former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh’s statement saying the Centre Should not have lifted the ban. The congress, which is a sinking ship in the State, sensed that Jairam Ramesh’s statement against Jallikattu would jeopardise their political fortunes. Any way the Jallikattu issue will be a loss for the AIADMK as the Jallikattu belt is traditional fort of the ruling party. —TS Venkatesan