The ban on Jallikattu is set to open a new debate vis-à-vis traditions and animal rights, which is no less than taming a bull
Venkatesan T S from Chennai
In June the farmers, farming community and Opposition would raise their voice demanding release of water in Cauvery to carry out the Kuruvai crop cultivation. In January, the bull fight fans, proponent of Tamil identify and culture along with some political parties would demand to permit to organise Jallikattu, a traditional sports to show the valour of the youths. Of these, the former is to protect the livelihood of the farmers and people of this State. The latter is to keep alive the traditional sport.
|What is Jallikattu?
Jallikattu, also known as Eruthazhuvuthal or Manju Virattu, is held in Tamil Nadu during the festival of Pongal. The sport, which is an integral part of the festivities in the State, was believed to be a common practice during the classical period (400-100 BC) in Tamil Nadu.
The bulls are well-fed and are bred by the villagers before the event. After the event is over, tamed weak bulls are used for domestic activities and agriculture while the strong ones are used for breeding.
As the festival of Pongal approaches, calls for Jallikattu to be allowed to be held are getting louder in the State. It is during the festival of Pongal that Jallikattu is usually held in several parts of Tamil Nadu.
Banning Jallikattu will Decimate India’s Indigenous Cattle Breeds
According to Himakiran Anugula, who is an organic farmer and also a trustee of SKCRF (www.kangayambull.com), an organisation working to conserve native breed cattle in Tamil Nadu: If Jallikattu is banned, livestock keepers will be forced to abandon the raising of native livestock, which already stands threatened due to the extensive use of motor pumps and mechanised agriculture. If the sport is banned, it would be the death knell of native cattle species in Tamil Nadu.
As a show of strength and solidarity, students, political parties took to streets urging the centre to take appropriate legal steps to hold the Jallikattu in the State this year which has been mired in legal tangle.
Why was Jallikattu banned?
Animal activists, the Federation of India Animal Protection Agencies (FIAPO) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India had been protesting against Jallikattu since 2004.
Judgment needs a Relook
The Supreme Court has weighed tradition on the scales of material benefit. This approach militates against fundamental Hindu values and follows a form of materialism that even the most liberal of western cultures are looking beyond
The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) had also filed a case in the Supreme Court seeking a complete ban on Jallikattu because of the cruel treatment meted out to animals and also over the threat it poses to public safety. There are human injuries and fatalities involved due to which the Board sought a ban on the sport. Several bulls suffer injuries believed to be a bad omen for the village.
The Environment Ministry added bulls to its 1991 notification banning the training and exhibition of bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers and dogs
Emphasising on the historic and religious significance of the event, Centre allows use of bull in Jallikattu, by amending the list of animals prohibited from being trained for performances
May 7, 2014
Supreme Court passed a landmark judgment in favour of PETA & the Animal Welfare Board of India
Jan 7, 2016
Centre revokes ban on Jallikattu through a notification that mentions that this exemption is subject to the condition that bulls are treated properly and not subjected to cruelty
Jan 11, 2016
PETA challenged Centre's notification allowing bull taming sport in Supreme Court
Jan 12, 2016
Supreme Court stays Centre’s notification
Nov 9, 2016
Questioning the Centre for its notification on allowing the use of bulls in events like Jallikattu, the SC said India cannot “import roman gladiator type sport”
Nov 16, 2016
Supreme Court dismissed the Tamil Nadu’s plea to lift the ban on Jallikattu in the State, saying it finds no ground to allow the State for the sport
Dec 1, 2016
Jan 9, 2017
Supreme Court questioned the Centre for its 2016 notification allowing use of bulls in events like
Jan 9, 2017
O Paneerselvam requested PM Modi to pass an ordinance to allow Jallikattu during the pongal festival
Jan 11, 2017
AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala wrote a letter to PM Modi seeking promulgation of an ordinance for conduct of Jallikattu
Jan 12, 2017
Supreme Court put on hold its
In May 2014, the Supreme Court had banned the practice, citing animal welfare issues. In January 2016, Modi Government passed an executive order exempting Jallikattu from all performances where bulls cannot be used, effectively reversing the ban. However, on January 14, 2016 the Supreme Court upheld its ban on the event, leading to protests all over Tamil Nadu.
Campaigns for Jallikattu
When the People of the State keenly want to witness the event, nothing moved in that direction despite
assurances. This year, there have been hectic campaigns in the social media seeking support for the traditional sport.
If you want a ban on Jallikattu, let's also ban biryani. Bulls are treated like God and as part of the family in Tamil Nadu
There are two important events when people in village rejoice—one is Thiruvizha (festival) and another one is Jallikattu. Jallikattu is not only a traditional sport it is a breeding science. There are many Indian cattle which are
A study shows that 1,000s of cows which are donated to
I Support Jallikattu. It is our identity, tradition & culture. As a Tamilian I support this sport to be conducted as usual
Jallikattu is a sport which shows heroic act without hurting anyone, this sport should be taken in a cultural way
— Sivakumar, Journalist
On January 8, 2017 the Marina beach of Chennai witnessed a ‘spontaneous’ rally in which nearly 10,000 people gathered to ‘Save Jallikattu’, demanding the Central and State Government to do whatever in their means to allow the cultural tradition to continue this Pongal.
“There were thousands of college students and IT professionals gathered. No political party or big group organised this, it was a joint effort by people in the city, to call for help for farmers and bull-owners,” said one of the organisers of the event. Other pro-Jallikattu organisations and groups also participated in the event, which gathered momentum.
Coming out in support of Jallikattu, students staged demonstrations at many places across Tamil Nadu including Madurai, where police used lathi charge to disperse protesters who tried to break barricades to enter the Collectorate. Similar demonstrations were held by students in various places, including Vellore, Pudukkottai and Tirupur.
Vijaya Ruby Malan, an educationist by profession said to Organiser, “Jallikattu is being criticised by the animal welfare activists based on its optics as it is something cruel to the animal. Those who are engaged in the sport can vouch for the fact that the animal is well fed and treated as a sibling in the family. Indeed, these animals are a source of pride in rural Tamil Nadu. Given the ferocity with which the activists are blocking the sport raises a doubt that there is something more to this act than animal welfare. A civilisation which has preserved its animals for 1000s of years is being accused of causing cruelty. Unfortunately, none of the activists have gone into the science behind the sport or the traditions which kept these animals alive even after industrialisation. More importantly, this is a sport which is very closely identified with the culture Tamils and the fact that few NGOs and individuals have belittled the cultural ethos of an age old civilisation has led to mass agitation. Jallikattu is neither cruel nor unscientific as it is put out to be, rather it is the opposite.”
While Senthilkumar, a student in favour of banning Jallikattu said, “Instead of showing powers in
controlling the hapless bulls, why don’t the young and energetic youth redirect their energy and power in building a canal or any other social developmental activities?”
Actor Kamal Haasan categorically reiterated his support for Jallikattu. “I have played the game. I am one of the very few actors who can lay claim to actually embracing a bull. I am a Tamilian and I like the sport. If the PETA is sincere and love animals, then let it ban briyani also” he quipped.
But neither Haasan’s now viral rhetoric nor the culture debate can dispute “documented facts”, maintains PETA India. “Jallikattu exploits bulls’ natural nervousness as prey animals by deliberately placing them in a terrifying situation in which they are forced to run away from those they perceive as predators. AWBI inspectors documented at numerous Jallikattu events that the bulls become so frightened by the menacing mob that they slip, fall, run into barriers and traffic, and even jump off cliffs, so desperate are they to escape,” says Poorva Joshipura, CEO, PETA India. It also squarely counters accusations of intending to wipe out native breeds of bulls.
In support of Jallikattu educationist Dhurgaadevi her opinion, “The colonial hobby of horse racing was banned in Tamil Nadu during the 70’s. But, has the ban really been implemented? No, even today, horse racing happens in the same city within few kilometres. Let’s stop this narrow thought of giving petty reasons like animal abuse, safety of the bull tamers, etc., let’s not compromise our heritage and culture for some foreign ideas.”
As demands from various quarters continued to pour in for holding Jallikattu, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam reaffirmed the resolve of his government to conduct the bull taming sport, saying it will “not back off” on the matter. Panneerselvam also hit out at
arch-rival DMK for its criticism of the ruling AIADMK on the matter, saying it was the UPA regime, in which DMK was a key constituent, which issued a notification including bulls under the ‘performing animals’ category, making it unable to be used in the sport. “I and the Tamil Nadu Government, who follow in the footsteps of Amma (Jayalalithaa), will ensure that Jallikattu is held. We will not back off even a bit.”
Earlier, AIADMK General Secretary VK Sasikala (Chinnamma) wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking promulgation of an ordinance for conduct of the Jallikattu, noting that the ban on it had caused “resentment” in the State.
Meanwhile, a day after the Tamil Nadu Government urged the Centre to consider promulgating an ordinance to enable the conduct of the sport, Union Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave said the matter should be looked into, especially when there is no violence involved in the sport and it has been a tradition of a society.
Anil Madhav Dave who met a delegation led by Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha and AIADMK MP M Thambidurai on January 11 regarding this issue also blamed the previous Congress-led UPA Government for including bulls in the list of animals prohibited from being exhibited or trained as performing animals.
Till the time story was filed there are already reports coming that ‘Jallikattu’ is being celebrated in many parts of Tamil Nadu as a mark of protest.