Jallikattu, the traditional sport which is practiced in Tamil Nadu, has been followed for over 2,500 years now and is embedded in the Tamil culture. This sport is also known as Sallikkattu and is the practice of holding on to a bull’s hump with both the arms while the bull prance around trying to escape. In some cases a flag is attached to the bull’s horn and the one tries to hold on to the bull should retrieve the flag or the bull wins after it crosses a finish line.
Unlike other similar practices with bulls in Europe, instead of an act of violence against the bull, in Tamil Nadu the bull is not hurt and is instead worshipped after Jallikattu. They are considered to be sacred and the opportunity for winning is clearly given to the bull in Jallikattu.
A Bos indicus bull of the Kangayam breed is usually used for this practice and is conducted on Mattu Pongal as a part of the Pongal celebrations. Many claim that Jallikattu is an excuse to conduct an act of violence to these animals and that the bulls are hurt in the process. But the ones who conduct Jallikattu only do it as a part of their culture which evidently does not hurt these bulls.
Animal activists and protesters claim that Jallikattu is exploiting the bull’s natural nervousness, which helps in creating an exciting factor. Jallikattu in ancient times was practised among the Aayars. Later it emerged to be a game for those who wanted to prove their bravery.
Jallikattu became a controversial sport only after the intervention of various Animal Welfare boards. Till then it was not questioned about as people conducted the game with no intention of hurting the animals physically or mentally.
The Animal Welfare Board of India, in 2004, filed a case in the Supreme Court of India, demanding an blanket ban on Jallikattu stating the reason as cruel treatment of bulls participating in the game. On 27 November 2010, the SC permitted Government of Tamil Nadu to allow Jallikattu for five months, with certain restrictions. In 2011, Ministry of Environment and Forests issued a notice, banning the use of bulls as performing animals.
In 2014, the SC banned the game altogether. On January 2016, the Government of India passed an order exempting Jallikattu from all performances where bulls can not be used, thus reversing the ban. But on 14 January, the same year, the Supreme Court of India upheld its ban.
On 16 January 2016, the World Youth Organisation protested at Chennai against the stay on ban. It demanded a ban on PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) in India. In early January 2017, rallies were held across the state, clarifying that this sport was to breed native bulls like Kangayam and thus increase the natural milk production without artificial insemination.
The people in Allanganallur in Tamil Nadu started protesting, spreading across Madurai. On 17 January 2017, around 3000 people started protesting in Marina, Chennai. The very next day, college students came together and started protesting. The crowd of college students grew rapidly with no violence reported. The protest was peaceful with a crowd estimate of 5,00,000 people.
The state Government after several discussions, came out with an ordinance for approval from the Centre. After approval from three ministries, it was passed on to the President of India. On 21 January, the ordinance was signed by the President. This lifts the ban on Jallikattu temporarily for a span of 6 months.
Tamil Nadu achieved partial victory with the Central Government passing an ordinance to conduct Jallikattu on Sunday. The entire state is eagerly waiting to watch the sport being conducted in Alanganallur, which is the main centre for this bull taming sport. The Chief Minister of Tamilnadu, Mr. O. Paneer Selvam has announced that he himself would inaugurate the sport in the ‘Jallikattu’ village.
Though this comes in as a big news and appears to be an answer to the revolutionary protests held in Tamil Nadu, people have not agreed to give up. All over Tamil Nadu, people have agreed to stop the protest only if their two demands are met. Firstly, amending the PCA Act and secondly, banning US-based NGO PETA in India.
Police personnel are trying to calm down people and disperse the crowd, but their efforts are going in vain. The protesters are stern that they would not vacate the Vadivasal (the place where the bulls start before the sport) till this issue gets a permanent, positive solution. The district collector, K Veera Raghava Rao, also went to hold talks with the people. But, they are clear and strong in their demands.
With students’ power reaching the half milestone, protestors and Tamilians all over the world are on high hopes that their demands would soon be restored.