In a country that worships cow as its mother, the tradition of fighting bulls in a closed arena comes across as little odd. Cruelty on animals on the pretext of cultural spirit is horrible, and the Supreme Court was right to stay its ban on Jallikattu, Tamil Nadu’s annual bull-taming festival. The bulls, reared especially for the sport, must be thanking their stars, and the SC.
An integral part of the Tamil harvest festival, Pongal, the sport dates back to many centuries. Over time, it became a platform for display of bravery and the winner took away a bag full of coins as the prize money. The sport that has caused over 200 deaths over the past two decades stays banned, owing to the cruelty meted out to the participating bulls.
In a recent move, the top court refused to revoke the ban on Jallikattu, dismissing petitions in support of resumption the blood sport. The event has been opposed by animal rights activists, championed by politicians, banned by the previous UPA government, then lifted by the Centre a week back, and finally, stayed by the SC. On January 8, the environment and forests ministry permitted the continuation of Jallikattu under certain conditions. Merely five days later, the Supreme Court ordered a stay after hearing the petitions of the Animal Welfare Board of India.
People from Tamil Nadu are not too happy with the SC’s decision. They take it as an infringement into their cultural pride and have voiced their protest in several ways. People have taken extreme measures to voice their dissent; already there has been a case where a man tried to immolate himself, but was saved by the police. People tonsured their heads, besides blockades, demonstrations, and fasts across the major cities in Tamil Nadu.
The SC rightly pointed out that it doesn’t see the necessity of such a festival, and the state can manage without Jallikattu, especially because it has remained banned in the past four years. It is another thing that the sport continued to be held under a state law until 2014. So why is Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalitha and her arch rival, DMK chief KM Karunanidhi, who never agree to anything, have made the same plea to the SC and Prime Minister Narendra Modi?
The court verdict that has snowballed into a big controversy stinks of political agenda, considering the fact that the state will hold its polls this year. With villagers saying they won’t vote if Jallikattu failed, the regional political parties are doing what they do best: Prepare grounds for future vote. They are doing their best to gain mileage out of this controversy. What better time to show their affinity to their prospective vote-bank?
As for all those who say the sport proved to be a barometer of manliness, let’s get one thing straight. A game needs willing participants to be termed as a sport. With bulls provoked and injured, and chased into an enclosed area, they don’t have any choice but to run amok. It’s not manliness when you try to tame down a liquor-fed disoriented bull.
In the ancient times, gladiators, too, fought in a mortal combat, amidst great cheers from the crowd and the king. But that doesn’t mean it was right! So let us not evoke sentiments by citing a thousand-year-old tradition and justifying our right to hurt men and animals alike!