Jallikattu: Sport of Bull-Taming or Question of Cruelty to Bulls

Kaushal Kishore (Follow @HolyGanga)

Issue: Thousands of people sustained injuries and tens of incidents of death are in the reports in last five years, but still there is a special significance of events like Jallikattu

Jallikattu: Pic. Credit: The Hindu

The Supreme Court of India has passed an interim order to ban the event of Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu. The game of bull taming will be impossible in case this interim order remains in effect. Sharp criticism and a series of protest began to emerge immediately after the order was passed. Certain regional political parties of Tamil Nadu such as DMK, MDMK and PMK began to put pressure on the government of state and centre respectively. P. Radhakrishnan, the Loksabha M.P. elected from Kanyakumari constituency and MoS for Shipping in Modi Govt. stand in support of the protesting groups. Jayalalithaa, the Chief Minister of the state, wrote a letter to the central government in a hurry. She has firmly repeated the request to issue an ordinance to that effect in this matter immediately. After all these set of events this case turns into a very hot political issue. Consequently a fresh war between the government and the judiciary is facing each other. All the powerful forces of Tamil Nadu appear to be united on this issue. As thus this is an important case in the beginning of this year, and time will tell the fate of it.

The common citizen of India obviously respects the decisions of the judiciary, but the response of public in this case is outrageous. Today, the members of local societies and those who are active in politics are visible on the roads during the protest. The trend of strike, blockade and protest intensified in certain districts like Madurai, Alangnallur, Palamedu, Avnipurm, etc. After all, what is the reason that people took to the streets immediately after that interim order? Isn’t it necessary to look into the issues that the south Indian people oppose today? Whether the govt. of India is going to respect views of Tamilian leaders in order to issue the new ordinance? The organisers of Jallikattu have made elaborate arrangements everywhere—in villages, towns and cities, for this traditional sporting event. The Supreme Court has decided to cancel the game on the name of preventing violence and cruelty to animals. After this interim order the next hearing of the case has been fixed for March 15. It is also clear here that the approach of the court and intent of the central and state governments are not consistent with each other. Ministry of Environment and Forest of the Govt. of India issued a notification on last seventh January. This notification amended the previous regulation imposed in July 2011, and lifted the ban on the display of trained bulls in certain traditional sports such as bullock cart race and Jallikattu. The Animal Welfare Board of India, PETA and certain other organizations joined together to challenge the government in the court. There is a noticeable fact that the case listed for the division bench headed by the Chief Justice T.S. Thakur has been actually heard in the court headed by Justice Dipak Misra and N.V. Ramana, because Justice R. Bhanumati, who is a member of that bench, refused to hear the same. The reports in the media on this topic have not discussed its reasons. There must be some plausible reason behind doing so for Justice Bhanumati, who has started her career from the Higher Judicial Service of the Tamil Nadu cadre. God knows, when this mystery will be solved, but it is evidently clear that the issue at stake alarms the reputation of the judiciary.

There is a special importance to certain games associated with the conservation of gauvansh (cattle of the cow family) in the Tamilian society that is largely dependent on agriculture and animal husbandry. The new harvest festival is celebrated in almost every part of India since prehistoric times in the beginning of the year. In different regions, it has various names such as Makar Sankranti, Lohri, Pongal, etc. The regional characteristics are also evidently clear along with these festivals. The festival of Pongal is celebrated in the Tamil Nadu, as a four-day long series of festivities. There is a special feature for each day of celebration that reflects from their names as well i.e. Bhogi Pongal, Thai Pongal, Mattu Pongal and Kannum Pongal. The third day is dedicated to Pashupati Nath that is another name of Lord Shiva. According to the Tamil belief Mattu is the bull of Lord Shiva. This day of celebration is dedicated to animals due to their usefulness in the field of agriculture. The sporting event like Jallikattu is one of its significant parts. The bulls for this purpose are given special trainings. Such trained bulls are known as Jallikat or Jallikattu.

In fact, the festival associated with the performance of strongest progeny of the cow family is a result of long and time consuming preparations. This is a centre of extremely important cultural activities, and also a cause of gatherings that is organized in different villages of Tamil Nadu rest of the year. Almost every village temple has its own Jallikattu; the feelings of most of the villagers are associated with such cattle. The game—to subdue the healthy and strong bull—is certainly difficult and dangerous. The reports of injuries to more than a thousand people and death of 18 people in the last five years are before our eyes. But still there is an extraordinary importance of events like Jallikattu in the protection of animals of native breed, especially the native cow progeny that can produce A2 milk. This fact cannot be denied in any case. The use of machines increased in modern farming. The result of that is in front of us. The utility of bullock is an affair of the gone by days. The farmers, the natural herd of cattle in India, are competing today to sell oxen and bulls to the butcher. The sport like Jallikattu is one of the very limited remaining resources in order to protect the native breed of cows. One more question arises during this process. Whether this effort to prevent the cruelty towards the bulls won’t prove to be an attempt that can wipe out this creature from its roots? In fact, this is the question that provoked the Tamil people to such an extent that they accepted to commit contempt of the court. The people familiar with the Tamil society knows about it.

The observation of facts mentioned in the interim order revealed the unequaled sensitivity of the Supreme Court towards the silent animals. If the sensitivity of the court on the issue of cruelty and violence towards the animals and birds moves a few steps further in the right direction that might lead the dead-body-eaters to resort to a kind of natural reaction. By the way, it is clear in the light of the urgency of Jallikattu and hubble-bubble of the traditional festival that the compliance of this order will be extremely difficult for the administrative authorities. However, a large segment of the society still believes that the govt. will surely bring some sort of solution, because Jallikattu is an ancient traditional practice, which has been continued for centuries.

(Kaushal Kishore is the author of The Holy Ganga)



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