It’s no longer only about Jallikattu in Chennai

Pro-Jallikattu protests continue, even as PM Modi ruled out an ordinance and the SC refused to take suo motu notice of agitations. But what explains the support of celebs, film stars and cricketers?

Photo by R Senthil Kumar/PTI
Photo by R Senthil Kumar/PTI

NH Political Bureau

Even as protestors continued to occupy a part of the Marina Beach in Chennai for the third consecutive day on Thursday, their numbers swelling from 5,000 on Tuesday to an estimated 15,000-20,000 on Thursday, the protest no longer appears to be confined against the Supreme Court ban on ‘Jallikattu’ imposed in 2014.

By all accounts, a host of other issues including Cauvery water sharing, drought, farmer suicides and perceived neglect by Delhi are agitating the protestors, who believe the Tamil identity is being threatened. The focus, however, remains on the demand to allow Jallikattu and ban PETA ( People For Ethical Treatment of Animals) in Tamil Nadu.

Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Pannerselvam failed to secure an assurance that the Centre would issue an ordinance allowing Jallikattu. The apex court’s final order on the ban, first imposed partially in 2010 and then completely in 2014, is awaited soon and the Centre, the PM apparently conveyed, was averse to issue an ordinance at this stage as the matter remains sub judice.

The Centre, however, had issued a notification on January 7, 2014 to allow the bull-taming sport during the Pongal festival this year, which actually provoked the apex court to remind the Government of the existing ban imposed in 2014.

Even as the TN chief minister was meeting the PM, the Supreme Court refused to take suo motu notice of the protest, asking the petitioner to approach the Madras High Court. “The apex court cannot hold the hands of protesters”, the court said.

The protesters themselves remained defiant, asserting that they would not move till a solution was found. Some of them warned that the peaceful protest could turn violent if a solution is not found urgently.

 Photo by Pramod Pushkarna/National Herald
Photo by Pramod Pushkarna/National Herald
Youngsters and students staged a dharna to lift the ban on Jallikattu, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Thursday

What is Jallikattu? For the uninitiated, Jalli is a small bag of coins which are tied to the horns of a bull as prize money for whoever is able to tame the animal as it sprints to the finishing line of a 50-meter track.

Why is it associated with Tamil pride? The sport in Tamil Nadu is deemed to be a test of masculinity and it is said that there is a Tamil saying that no man who is scared of a bull is worth marrying. In earlier times the bull-tamer would get to marry the daughter of the owner of the bull say some while others maintain that Pandyan rulers in Madurai derived their name from the Tamil word Pandi for bull. It is also said that in ancient times Tamil kings used the sport to recruit soldiers.

Why are activists opposed to it? Activists and organisations like PETA and the Animal Welfare Board of India etc have documented cruelty to the animals, who are said to be bullied and often fed with alcohol. Injuries are also said to be common.

How risky is the sport? As many as 43 bull-tamers are said to have been killed between 2008 and 2014. During this same period four bulls are also said to have died because of the sport.

What are the protesters’ views on the ban? The ban, they believe, will reduce the number of native breeds of cattle while some say that the ban is designed to benefit rich corporate bodies. Virtually everyone at Marina beach appears to agree that the ban is an assault on their ‘cultural right’.

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Published: 19 Jan 2017, 6:48 PM