What is jallikattu?-Detailed analysis

Prelims : Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
Mains : GS 1 Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society
GS 2 Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

What is jallikattu?

jallikattu-Everything you need to knowJallikattu also known as Eruthazhuvuthal or Manju virattu, is an event held in Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations on Mattu Pongal day. Bulls are bred specifically by people of the village for the event and attended mainly by many villages’ temple bulls (koil kaalai). A temple bull is like the head of all cattle in a village; special rituals will be performed for this temple bull during important days. During the event, prizes are announced to encourage the youth to participate. After the event, tamed weak bulls are used for domestic activities and agriculture, meanwhile the untameable strong bulls are used for breeding the cows. It is said to be ingenious where both sport and preservation of Ecosystem works well together. Jallikattu has been known to be practised during the Tamil classical period. It was common among the ancient people aayars who lived in the ‘Mullai’ geographical division of the ancient Tamil country


What explains the protests in Tamil Nadu?

    On January 14 last year, the Supreme Court passed an interim order banning Jallikattu — a traditional bull-taming sport practised by agrarian communities in the central and south Tamil Nadu districts of Madurai, Tiruchirappalli, Theni, Pudukkottai and Dindigul — citing cruelty to the animals. Since the festival is usually held in the second week of January to coincide with the harvest festival of Pongal, Jallikattu supporters approached the apex court again, seeking an urgent hearing, but the Supreme Court refused to entertain them. That set off stray protests in the state’s ‘Jallikattu belt’. The immediate trigger for the state-wide protests was the arrest of 200 youngsters who were protesting against the Jallikattu ban at Alanganallur in Madurai district on January 16. The arrests sparked off a social media campaign, leading to protests across the state, with around 6,000 people turning up at Chennai’s Marina Beach alone by Tuesday evening.

The deeper issue with jallikettu

While the ban on Jallikattu was what held them together, many of the protesters at Marina Beach said their anger was the result of pent-up frustration against what they saw as a threat to “Tamil identity”. They point to the Centre’s recent demonetisation move and the Supreme Court’s order on the national anthem as decisions “imposed” on them.

What is the background to the court’s ban on Jallikattu?

    Legal battles over Jallikattu have pit animal activists against bull owners since the early 1990s.  Several cases have been fought over the issue. In May 2014, on a petition by PETA and the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), the Supreme Court upheld the 2011 notification and said, “Bulls cannot be allowed as performing animals, either for Jallikattu events or bullock-cart races in the state of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra or elsewhere in the country.” In January 2016, ahead of Tamil Nadu Assembly elections, the Centre, seeking to overturn the SC ban, modified its 2011 notification and issued a new one which said Jallikattu can be held in 2016. After AWBI and PETA challenged the Centre’s move in SC, the court gave an interim stay, preventing Jallikattu.

What are the arguments against Jallikattu?

    The two parties who have opposed Jallikattu in court, AWBI and PETA, had submitted various reports, affidavits and photographs to prove “cruelty” involved in the event. The AWBI argued that Jallikattu bulls are “physically and mentally tortured” for “human pleasure”. By no stretch of imagination, AWBI said, can it be said that Jallikattu or bullock-cart races have any historical, cultural or religious significance, either in Tamil Nadu or in Maharashtra, and argued that the Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals Act should supersede any such practices.

What do supporters have to say?

we need jallikattuJallikattu organisers, and now the protesters, argue that the ‘sport’ is a way of life in these parts and that it is a tradition that goes back over 2,000 years. They counter the cruelty argument by saying that Jallikattu bulls are specifically identified, trained and nourished for these events and that owners spend considerable amount money for their upkeep. More often than not, they say, the bulls are part of the farmer’s family and they wouldn’t subject the animals to any cruelty. Besides, they say, banning Jallikattu will destroy the native breed since the sport is probably the only reason farmers keep these animals. For some years now, with modernisation and farm mechanisation, the native breeds of Tamil Nadu such as Kangayam and Pulikulam have been under threat. The ban on Jallikattu, say activists, will complete the rout.

What’s next?

    Supporters of Jallikattu are banking on an early hearing and a favourable verdict from the Supreme Court or the Centre issuing an Ordinance to bring back Jallikattu. With the Centre on Thursday turning down Chief Minister O Panneerselvam’s request for an Ordinance, the protests have intensified. The state has already sought legal opinion on passing a law with immediate effect. “This is to facilitate Jallikattu within a few days. If there are no larger consequences to such a law, we will go ahead,” said a source. Top AIADMK leaders say that if the government cannot facilitate the event, the party will do it. “Let the government then appoint a Village Administrative Officer to probe the violation, let the police register a case in the local magistrate court and let the law take its course. Even if the Centre and SC are indifferent, we cannot ignore this problem or suppress it using force,” says a leader.

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The way forward

    Whatever the views of the youth taking part in the demonstration, jallikattu in its present form is of relatively recent origin, intended to make bulls run amok for the sake of spectacle. Instead of the traditional form of one man against one animal, latter-day jallikattu is a mass-participant ritual of hundreds of men chasing a bull and trying to hold on to its hump or stop it by pulling at or twisting its tail. Few other feudal traditions have survived in modern, progressive India in the name of masculine valour and cultural pride. When the Supreme Court banned this spectacle that took a heavy toll on both the animals and the human participants, it did so after attempts at its regulation and the orderly conduct of this “sport” were deemed a failure. In 2013, under the watch of the Animal Welfare Board of India, the onus was on the State of Tamil Nadu to ensure that jallikattu did not violate the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. But, the opportunity to ensure a jallikattu that was free of cruelty to the animals and injuries to the participating youth was frittered away. Efforts that are now on to nullify the effect of the Supreme Court judgment through the ordinance route thus carry a serious risk of judicial reproach. The proper course for the Centre and the State government is to persuade the Supreme Court that a jallikattu that does not involve, or at least almost eliminates, cruelty to animals and that guarantees the safety of spectators and participants alike is indeed possible. It is all right if popular sentiment can influence legislation, but it cannot undermine the rule of law.

Prelims Perspective

There may be a question on Jallikattu, the features of the sport etc.

Mains Perspective

It is all right if popular sentiment can influence legislation, but it cannot undermine the rule of law. Examine the validity of the statement in the context of protests associated with Jallikkattu

Ordinance to clear path for holding Jallikattu

The Centre cleared the Tamil Nadu government’s proposal to promulgate an ordinance to hold Jallikattu, a bull taming traditional sport in TN.

The union home ministry had earlier sent the draft submitted by the State to the Environment and Law Ministries for their response.

The state government can now promulgate it by either introducing it as a bill in the state assembly or it can be approved by the state cabinet. It will no longer need a presidential assent.

Rationale behind the ordinance:

* Since the subject falls in the Concurrent list of the Constitution, it was mandatory to get approval from the Centre.
* On receiving a reply from the concerned ministries, the home ministry gave its clearance.
* The ban on Jallikattu was challenged as it was considered against the fundamental, religious and cultural rights of the people of Tamil Nadu, especially when farmers treat bulls and cows as a part of their families.

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Various aspects associated with the issue:

* The Union home minister earlier attacked the former government for including bulls in the list of animals that are prohibited from being exhibited or trained as performing animals.
* Animal activists have raised concerns as they consider Jallikattu as an act of cruelty against animals
* Earlier the supreme court has agreed on deferring its judgement on the validity of governments notification on the issue. This was in response to a plea by the center which sought a status quo on the issue.
* The issue has led to agitations in the state and a status quo will prevent the situation from becoming worse.
* The Court had banned the event in 2014 and declared it as an act that is inherently cruel against bulls. A review petition filed by the Tamil Nadu government against the judgment was also dismissed by the apex court.

The Centre had argued against absolute prohibition in the case. In a plea before the court, the government has sought certain degree of flexibility on the contentious issue. The government had contended that the sport was intrinsically linked to rural life in Tamil Nadu and the government cannot shed their centuries old tradition.

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